Elisabeth: Crossing Over

Elisabeth is getting married, you guys! It’s finally here! Each month Elisabeth has been updating us on her pending intercultural transcontinental wedding, from her conversion to Islam to her frustrations with super, super long distance wedding planning. Just a few months ago she and Amin were choosing a date and venue and figuring out the perfect cross-cultural wedding outfit, and now they’re getting married! This weekend! And of course, in her last post before the wedding, Elisabeth has perfectly summarized what wedding planning is all about (with a heaping side of letting your community lift you up). So let’s all give a gigantic APW-style hurrah to Elisabeth and Amin as they head into their wedding weekend. Hugs and fist bumps all around.

A few weeks ago, I had my first wedding nightmare. It wasn’t so bad, actually. I was hanging out at the wedding, with my old college roommate, and about six hours in she turns to me and goes, “Hey, aren’t you going to, like, get ready or something?” And I look down, and I realize I’m in a lovely sundress that bears little to no resemblance to my wedding dress. And I realize that I haven’t arranged for anybody to do my hair or makeup. And I realize my dress came from Houston with my sister-in-law, only I can’t figure out how to work my phone to call her and find out if she has it or anything. So by the end of the dream, I find myself in a car, rolling down the highway, with a bunch of strangers, who I am asking to please help me figure out how to work my phone.

We’re definitely in the homestretch, now. Counting the days and whatnot. In fact… I no longer have to use all of my fingers to count the days. Sunday, here we come!

I’m beginning to feel a bit of the zen: the time is precariously short, and this thing will be what it will be. However, Amin and I are both juggling eighteen or twenty different things per day, and our phone conversations have become machine-like in their efficiency. At 5am he called with my tasks for the day. “Look at the agenda and send it back,” he says. “Alright,” I answer. “I’ll schedule it in between my haircut and the visit from my fourth grade teacher. Have it to me by 11:15.” We both hang up and go back to work. And no, I am no longer sleeping, thank you for asking.

Though I have no idea what to expect from the wedding itself, I already know what my favorite part of wedding planning has been, and it has little or nothing to do with Amin. Instead, it’s all about everyone else who has bent over backwards to make the day a success. Although Meg talks about the wonderful sense of community a wedding brings, and APW Wedding Graduates have written about similar feelings, I was skeptical. I knew going in that I didn’t have any supremely artistic relatives who could letterpress my invitations, my mom does not want to cater a 150-person party, and I am not besties with a great band who offered to step in and do the music. Nevertheless, and in totally unexpected ways, I seem to have accidentally tapped into an invisible network of awesome people ready to leap into action at a moment’s notice.

Take my future sister-in-law, who dedicated a full week of time and energy to driving around Houston in the ninety-five-degree heat, while fasting, so that she could help me put together my outfit. I don’t want to tell you too much and spoil the surprise, but suffice it to say it is awesome. And now, in the few moments of free time she has, she’s calling me to give me pep talks and cultural advice, or she’s sewing crystals onto my veil. By hand.

Take my future mother-in-law, who broke all known weight restrictions for the airline to bring me a fully equipped Pakistani wardrobe so that I will never (ever) have to worry about having nothing to wear when we visit the aunties in Manchester.

Take my sisters, who have planned two (!) bachelorette parties, run errands with me like it’s their job, ensured that my enthusiasm never dipped below HOLY CRAP I AM MARRYING THE MAN OF MY DREAMS, and are now plotting some sort of secret thing I’m not allowed to know about (dear sisters: I totally do not know about this) but which has involved about 80% of everybody I know in the world. Or my lovely old friend Joe, who, after having been secretly contacted about this secret project, gave me a call “out of the blue” to talk for a few hours and tell me how happy he was that I was finally marrying this guy.

Take Amin’s aunt, who is singlehandedly planning another party for us a week after the wedding (no refusal allowed), and is also making the cake for our wedding while taking care of her husband in the hospital.

Take my mom, who has walked the two-mile length of our local mall with me at least thirty times in the past month picking out clothing and obsessing about wedding details. Take Alexis, who built me a wedding-cake hat out of children’s foam. Or my college roommates, two of which are flying in from Italy for the party. Or my dad, who is so excited that he’s planning to wear his tux literally every day until the wedding. Take my fourth grade teacher, who dropped by today to give me a letter she wrote for Amin, whom she has never met. “I won’t be able to come to the wedding, but at least I get to give him a little lecture. And tell him some secrets about you.”

I feel surrounded by wonderfulness and love. I’m sickly and not sleeping, and there’s too much to do, but honestly I am having the time of my life. And even in my nightmares, when my phone won’t work and I can’t find my dress, I’m surrounded by friendly people trying to help me out.

Photo of Elisabeth in a wedding cake hat from her personal collection

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  • Lynn

    Congratulations! I felt much of that same thing as the wedding snowballed its way to arriving and while things were hectic, it’s like I keep telling people…we had exactly the wedding we were supposed to have and I am so, so glad!

    Have an outstanding weekend!

  • mimi

    Congrats! And I hope you get some sleep soon!!!

  • Anya

    This just makes me wants to say Yay! and Congrats! How joyful this sounds. I just had my first moment of pure “my people love me” bliss, when a close family friend agreed to MC part of our reception, and seemed excited to do it. It’s amazing how weddings really are about the whole community. I never noticed it as a distant guest, but now that I’m on the inside, I feel like I’m really being held by my people. These are the kinds of blessings that feed us. Thank you!

  • Oh, this is a happy tears kind of post! Congratulations, Elisabeth!

  • Stephanie

    I’m so happy and excited for you two! I also had a “Where’s my dress, and why won’t my phone work??” nightmare shortly before the wedding, and no, I didn’t sleep for several days before or after.

    It’s over in a blink, but what kept my heart from “deflating like a sad little balloon” was carving out moments here and there with my new husband. We spent a full 30 minutes alone between the ceremony and reception – a friend brought us wine and appetizers in a private side room. Since we’d made the food ourselves, it was a wonderful moment of enjoying the fruits of our labor and in experiencing our first moments together as husband and wife.

    I’m so glad you’ve already experienced a sense of community and support from those around you. Things really do work out – maybe not the way we dreamed they would, but they do work out.

    What’s special too is the unexpected human connections that occurred – guests who “just so happened” to be sat next to each other – and were seeming strangers – ended up having unique connections. New friendships were made, etc.

    Have a wonderful day! Looking forward to your Graduate post!

  • Anya

    On a somewhat related note – can we have a post about how to actually get some sleep the night(s) before the wedding? This question has been nagging at me for a while. Not only are a lot of us sleeping alone after years of sharing our bed, it’s also crazy-making time! I haven’t seen any real advice on this issue.

    • PA

      I assume “having your maid of honor sneak up on you with a brick wrapped in a towel” is not the answer you are hoping for… Seriously, though, I think I might have to resort to that, as I cannot think of anything else. (Joking. I’m joking!)

      I second the request for advice!

      • Rosie

        I don’t know how useful this will be to you, but I had a conversation with one of my bridesmaides, who has M.E., the night before my wedding which really helped me. We just chatted about how if you wake up or are finding it difficult to sleep, you need to try not to worry or panic about not getting to sleep but try to think ‘well, I’m still resting my body, and that’s almost as good’. I woke up during the night before my wedding and I thought about that, then I just rested while thinking through my favourite moments of the days before until I fell asleep again. After that I woke up 5 mins before my alarm at 8am! I know this won’t work for everyone but it helped me so I thought I’d share.

        • PA

          “Try not to worry or panic about not getting to sleep but try to think, ‘well, I’m still resting my body, and that’s almost as good.'”

          Excellent point! The last thing we need is ANOTHER layer of stress.

        • Anya

          Thanks. That makes a lot of sense. I heard an interview on NPR a few weeks back about how you can’t think about how you need to sleep in order to fall asleep, so that makes a lot of sense. Think happy thoughts has been added to my list!

      • KB

        This cracked me up, PA, thanks for that! I also would like to add that trouble sleeping totally trumps the romance of spending the night before the wedding apart. It’s a practical consideration for me more than the “Meh, we live together anyways.”

        • Anya

          I would rather spend the night together on one level, but practicallity says no-can-do. His folks are staying in our apartment, which is and hour and a half from our place. My parents’ place is an hour away, near all of my bridesmaids, and just a half hour from the venue. And, our wedding starts at 12:30. So unless I want to wake up at the crack of dawn (literally – it’s also on daylights savings day, we just discovered) there’s no way I can reasonably spend the night with him and get my hair done before the wedding.

      • hahahaha – I got way more of a laugh out of this than I expected! My fiance likes to pull the “but it’s traditional!” card out sometimes, but when it came to the “sleep alone the night before” I put my foot down and said under no circumstances. I still think I’ll have trouble sleeping just from jitters and excitement!

    • I would have liked some advice about being rested…even though slept okay leading up to our wedding. The night before I think I got to sleep at about 3 am (due to trying to finish up a task that needed to be done), and slept in til about 9 am on our wedding day. (We had a night-time wedding.)

      What I felt was was challenging was not so much a lack of sleep, but just an overall exhaustion due to the emotional journey too. I was tired on our wedding day, but also a gazillion other emotions too, including excitement, and joy. I felt like I was carried by the support and love of our community on a wave through it all (despite feeling like I wouldn’t have been able to make it through on my own strength/energy/etc). Kinda hard to articulate…

      • I managed to sleep, somehow, the night before we eloped, but we were both up really late together snuggling and spending time together. I was still exhausted by the time we made it in from our post wedding dinner, at like 9. And it’s exactly what Jenny’s saying: the emotional wave keeps you going. You kind of ride it through the day and be ready for the crash at the end.

      • Anya

        This is exactly what I worry about. If I’m bone-weary with everything, will the general adrenaline of the day carry me? Would it make me feel kind of crazy? Will I be hungry/angry/find it difficult to pay attention? The fact that the wedding is not some magical time outside of yourself – that it is permeated by all the usual emotional and physical travails of life – doesn’t fit into the pretty pretty princess narrative of The Big Day.

        • Lynn

          My experience is yes, the adrenaline will carry you. I didn’t sleep, but then again I haven’t slept much since I was a little kid (chronic insomniac here). I think I went to bed at 2:30, was up at 5:00 and off to the races (those being Wal-Mart, Party City, Sam’s Club, etc) and making breakfast for everyone. I was a lot stressed at various points before the wedding, but being tired didn’t make any of that worse.

          I don’t remember being tired until Pooh and I left for our hotel, and then I was tired and starving, at which point I crashed.

          • Caroline

            I am someone who needs A LOT of sleep, and didn’t sleep much at all in the days leading up to the wedding despite my best efforts, I just couldn’t fall asleep or stay asleep, but the adrenaline did kick in and I don’t remember feeling tired until after the wedding, when, for the record, I still couldn’t sleep. The night after my wedding night I finally slept for 11 or so hours.

        • The adrenaline/love/whatever carried me….until well after our reception ended at 3 am. (Then we had to “strike” stuff, load the car, and go to the hotel.) So, it was all fine and super fun and we made it through. But I was seriously tired afterwards…and needed some recovery time.

        • My experience is also that the adrenaline will carry you, however I have to say that while I was high on love and community and all that good stuff, I was still cognizant of feeling a sense of physical exhaustion. And after the wedding? I was so bone weary that I was in no place to perform any marital night rituals if you know what I mean.

          It was all totally totally fine, but if I could do it again, I would get a prescription for a sleep aid and I would try it out once or twice before the wedding to make sure it agreed with me. I knew I had sleep issue tendencies and I knew there was a good chance I’d be unable to sleep on my wedding night, so I wish I had better prepared and taken care of myself.

          The other thing that may not be for you, but my husband and I made the decision to spend the night before our wedding together and in our own bed. And hands down, that was a brilliant decision for us. I think I slept more being in a comfortable and normal environment and the next morning was SO relaxed. I didn’t have my mother making me crazy, I didn’t have a ton of people around me, I didn’t have all this mayhem around me. Instead, my husband I had a leisurely morning, we went to breakfast just the two of us which was freakin awesome after the chaos of the week, I took a shower in my own home shower, and then we headed to the hotel to meet our folks and get dressed. Seriously, anyone on the fence about staying home and spending the night with your partner? It was THE BEST way to start our day.

          • Anya

            This is exactly what bugs me! I want the marital night rituals and I’m sure it’s way more common than not to crash and not be able to have fun under the covers (or wherever). Unfortunately, as I mentioned above, spending the night with him isn’t an option – his whole family will be here driving me crazy (though they probably would make me crazy).

    • Shelly

      Anya, I totally hear you! I was pretty relaxed all week leading up to the wedding, including the night before, but my mind was still racing with the anticipation.

      The things that helped me:
      – The night before, I had everything completed before the rehearsal. No last-minute rushing around.
      – I planned to sleep somewhere that I loved and where I’d feel relaxed. For me that was my friend’s cottage on a lake. Quiet and peaceful.
      – The next morning I gave myself time to relax, sip coffee and take in the day. No rush to wake up meant less stress about a potentially disasterous oversleeping
      – AMBIEN! I know this isn’t for everyone, but a prescription from my doctor that I had *previously taken and knew worked for me* (that part is key) helped override my anxious mind and enabled me to get the sleep I needed.

      Hope you can find something that will work for you!

      • Amanda

        Alternatively, I would suggest an OTC sleep aid, like Tylenol PM, etc. In fact, you can cut those babies into quarters, and just take one fourth of a pill if you are opposed to sleep meds (I’m not opposed, they just make me pretty high so I can’t take a whole one and be normal “me” the next day). As Shelly said – make sure you try them out before the big day, otherwise you might be left with an unexpected reaction.

    • MDBethann

      I don’t know how or why I was able to pull it off, but I somehow managed to have my jewelry together and my overnight bag packed and was calm enough that I said “I’m ready and going to bed now” around 11 pm or so the night before my wedding, so I went to bed while my mom, dad, and sister were still doing stuff (no idea what). I had run around like a crazy person earlier in the day but after the rehearsal, I was just really calm, despite the heavy rain storms that night. I woke up the next morning before my alarm, felt rested, and decided that I was going to watch my favorite childhood movie (“The Muppets Take Manhattan” – gotta love the wedding at the end!) while I did my nails and waited for the rest of my family to wake up. I don’t know how or why I slept – really hadn’t expected to – but I did and felt rested.

      Though I think adrenaline carried me through the day, but it was a good adrenaline. I wasn’t anxious or nervous – one of my married bridesmaids kept commenting on how calm I was – and I didn’t tear up until I was about to enter the church and it all hit me. I had energy all day, even when we got to the hotel around 10 pm. I felt like I could have partied all night, and I am not a party-all-night kind of person.

      • Jashshea

        This is what I hope for. In the absence of that, I just hope I don’t yell at anyone because I’m tired and cranky. :)

    • Diane

      Oooh, this one is in my wheelhouse! I spend at least half of my clinic time hearing about people’s sleep issues. (And yeah, it’s nice when med school and residency are useful outside of clinic.)

      Things to try:
      -If you’re tired but not sleepy, find someplace cool and comfy that’s not your bed and read something boring (which obviously rules out Meg’s book); if you have no boring reading available, I will happily e-mail you some journal articles about obscure cellular pathways.
      -Once you start to feel sleepy, go to bed, get comfy, and let yourself drift off. If you find that you’re wider and wider awake, return to step 1 but whatever you do, do NOT sit there and clock-watch.
      -Avoid caffeine the afternoon before and limit your alcohol — it makes you sleepy at first but that’s followed by a period of being hyper-alert.
      -On sleep aids:
      -Melatonin is available over-the-counter and is the synthetic version of the melatonin that your body produces as a “time to sleep” signal for itself. The downside is that not everyone finds it helpful (take it 1-2 hours before you want to go to bed, too). The upside is that it won’t mess up the quality of your sleep, give you wacky dreams, or leave you feeling sleepy the next day.
      -Tylenol PM, Benadryl, and similar things are an okay option if you take them every once in awhile but do have some impact on sleep architecture, can leave you feeling very dried out, and can interact with some other medications; if you’re on other meds, run it past your doctor first (duh). And whoever said to try it a different night first was right on. Also, you want to make sure you have a good 7-8 hours between taking them and having to do anything as some people find that the effects linger.
      -Ambien, Lunesta and Sonata are all prescription sleep meds but it’s not unheard of for people to take sleep meds not prescribed to them. I’d really caution you about this; they have a shared side effect of some people having really wacky dreams or even abnormal sleep behaviors. If you have a prescription, know that you tolerate the medication, know how you feel the next morning, etc. then fine but please please please remember that this is not the sleep equivalent of taking two Tylenol.
      -Other tricks: warm milk, relaxation exercises, a white noise machine, cuddling with your cat…all good stuff!
      -And the waking up early in the morning thing? OMG I am right there with you, happens to me almost every time I have a big event. I know that staying in bed and thinking will end me so my favorite is a morning workout. It wakes me all the way up, clears my mind, does excellent things for my skin (side bonus!). And post-workout breakfast is soooo satisfying.

      Much luck on this one! And love that adrenaline, it really does amazing things…

      • Taylor B

        thank you for these suggestions! I tend to have cyclical sleep issues, more often trouble staying asleep than falling asleep, and having suggestions all together in one place is so helpful. I know I sleep better after a workout, and this is a good reminder to me that the days leading up to the wedding will be full of exhausting activities and excitement but not necessarily the physical exertion that really knocks me out at night. Adding it to my list! :)

        thank you for sharing your expertise, and the safety reminders about sleep aids.

      • Anya

        Thank you! This is awesome. I’m generally a good sleeper, and I have plenty of boring reading. I’ll scope out some melatonin just in case, and meanwhile try some Tylenol PM beforehand to see how it works on me.

  • ferrous

    This struck a big chord for me: “I knew going in that I didn’t have any supremely artistic relatives who could letterpress my invitations, my mom does not want to cater a 150-person party, and I am not besties with a great band who offered to step in and do the music.”

    I feel that same sense of skepticism; I don’t think it’s unfounded, this isn’t my first step up to the wedding plate. Admittedly, though, I have relaxed a fair amount since my last time at the rodeo (to thoroughly mix metaphors). I suspect I’ll be less of a control freak this time around, and be able to let people take care of us…. Food for thought.

    It sounds like you have an amazing support system!
    And congratulations! Have a fantastic day Sunday!

  • Aww: “And even in my nightmares, when my phone won’t work and I can’t find my dress, I’m surrounded by friendly people trying to help me out.”

    So glad you are feeling such wonderful support from your community. I hope you have a fabulous wedding week! Looking forward to hearing all about it later.

  • Granola

    Yay!!! Good luck – super excited for you both an I CAN’T WAIT to see the pictures (If you’re willing to share them with us) and hear all about it.

  • YAYYYYY!! You’re almost there!!

  • This makes me so happy! The best exhaustion is the exhaustion you feel is after committing yourself to make beautiful things happen and having a blast while doing it. Congratulations!

  • Congratulations & best wishes~

  • Seriously, what is with the wedding nightmares? Zen touched on it in her last post, and now Elisabeth mentioned it. I get them all the time. Mine always involve some aspect of the day that someone forgot to plan (like the seating chart or the schedule) which results in mass chaos. I feel like we need a post that compiles APW readers’ most hilarious/ridiculous/terrifying wedding-related dreams.

  • Airplane Rachel

    Yay, congratulations! I can just feel the love and support from your friends and family! All the best to you and yours!

    And I’m curious and excited about the secret project. :)

  • JEM

    Right before the wedding everyone kept asking me how I felt. I really was not stressed but I couldn NOT turn off my brain so my response was “GREAT! But I haven’t slept in 3 days!!!!!!”

  • Emily

    This sounds like it could have been written by me a few days before my wedding! I was also busy from morning til night with my to-do lists and not sleeping much, but the sense of community was so totally awesome. Some of my favorite moments leading up to and on the day of the wedding had nothing to do with my husband, and more to do with my mom and my very best friends, and how my wedding was really all of our wedding. If you are anything like me, you may not be able to move the day after the wedding, but it will be totally worth it. Have a totally awesome wedding day!

  • I have to comment just because of the photo. Because that’s awesome!

  • ahhh I’m so excited for you!!! soak this weekend up and have so much fun!!!

    [can you tell I’m a newlywed that would get do her wedding day again in a heartbeat if we had the money for it?]

  • Huge fist bumps all around and congratulations!!