Why My Wedding is Also About My Mom

My wedding is for my mom, who gave up everything for me

Uncertain is an accurate way to describe my life. Nobody can predict the future, but given my childhood, what would become of me was up for discussion. A few months ago, a new friend said to me, “Blessed is he who had a difficult childhood.”

I was born into rather unfavorable socioeconomic conditions. Early in my mother’s pregnancy with me, she made the difficult decision to leave my father and raise me on her own, without him knowing of my existence. As a young twenty-two-year-old from a poor family, with no education, no job prospects, and few resources, she had one goal: to raise a daughter to become an independent woman, have an impact on the world, and ultimately break the cycle of poverty in my family. From as early as I can remember it had been “me and her against the world.” As a child, the uncertainty in my life was comforting and exciting. Uncertainty gave me something to aspire to—motivation to prove the whole world wrong, prove my mother right, and make something of myself.

When I became an adolescent, Mom decided that I should meet my father. I didn’t yet know the burden that comes from understanding where the dominant half of your personality comes from. Shortly after my father started to build a relationship with me, I started to see many of my weaknesses and personal struggles in him. For most of my life, I simply brushed off my inner challenges and weaknesses, but seeing them in my father made them real, and the journey towards self-awareness, self-acceptance, and ultimately self-improvement was emotionally taxing and isolating. But in the end it was worth it, because I found somebody to share my life with.

From the moment that I got engaged, I haven’t known how to deal with it. I don’t know how an engagement or a wedding is supposed to play out. My relatives never hosted weddings, because ain’t nobody got no money for that. Cyril and I could easily afford to host whatever kind of wedding that we want, now that we’re settled in our careers. But having grown up without any money at all, I still have a hard time spending—I’m comfortable living like I’m poor because it’s all that I know. We’re not the types that throw big parties, and coming from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds, eloping was starting to sound like a pretty easy solution. I bounced some ideas off of my mom, and what I got back was that it’s OUR wedding, and that we have to do what feels right for us.

And then I came to the realization that my wedding isn’t for me. My wedding is for my mom, who gave up everything so that I could follow my dreams, do things I never imagined I could do, and find an amazing partner to share my life with. My wedding is for my maternal grandparents, who raised a family to the best of their abilities, given the circumstances. My wedding is for my paternal grandparents, who missed out on my childhood, and aren’t angry or sad for the years that they missed, but thankful to their Lord for the granddaughter that they gained.

I spent my whole life trying to prove the world wrong. I’m twenty-five years old, and already I earned my Master’s of Science degree from McGill, built myself a rewarding career, traveled to thirteen different countries, became fluent in a new language, and found a partner who deserves me. For the first time in my life, I have nothing left to prove to the world, and that scares me. Instead of the uncertainty in my life leading me in a specific direction, it’s now up to me to carve out my own path, and I’m not quite sure how to do that yet.

All I know, is that in six months, Mom will walk me down the aisle, and give me to my partner, and we will figure it out together.

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  • Jillian

    “For the first time in my life, I have nothing left to prove to the world, and that scares me.” Wow, that hit me something fierce this morning. I know that feeling, of where/how do you make your life, live your life after years of “surviving”?

  • Katharine

    Great post!
    The links to Cassandra’s website are broken though, please fix!

  • Amber Smith

    I appreciate this post a lot! It’s very similar to my life circumstances (only, my mom has 5 kids, I’m 27 and still have a year left on my BA-but nearly identical feelings.) The experience of having a hard time spending money, and not exactly knowing how to throw one of these big wedding things is also difficult for me. I originally wanted to elope, but now I’ve come to the place where it feels good to throw a celebration for my family, the kind of celebration we’ve never really had before-and my fiancé’s family, too.
    The huge leg-up that I feel my family has on families that are used to paying for everything, and paying vendors is the DIY aspect. Some brides see it as trendy or a way to save a buck, my family sees it as the way you do things. When I got engaged, I was met with a ton of “What can I do or make for you?” Which is pretty exciting when you have a family of hard workers and artists.
    Also, I can have a budget that, in the wedding industry is considered tiny, but for us it feels huge.

    • Anon

      I don’t see a direct relationship between “knowing how to throw a wedding” and a family’s monetary circumstances. The first family wedding that happened in my lifetime was my sister’s, a couple of years before my own, because I have a small family. So I didn’t learn how to do it from my family (or anyone, for that matter).

      • KC

        I was also up a creek, to some degree, in how to do the wedding thing (no lack of “secondary advisors”, though. It’s just that all the secondary advisors [or “advice ravens”] contradicted each other, and my immediate family was multicultural and confused, and my inlaws were spread around the continent, and I didn’t really believe all the things I was told I needed, and it was pre-APW, so… we were winging it). My lack-of-a-clue was also not for monetary reasons. But in some families having no giant-party-weddings (and instead doing common-law or just going to the courthouse without any frills) *is* due to monetary reasons. So, it’s a potential correlation, but it only works in the “if you grew up in an environment with zero money for parties, your odds are greater that no one’s having a “traditional” wedding” direction, not in the “if no one’s had a “traditional” wedding in your family, your family must have no money” direction.

      • Christina Cusolito

        I see a correlation. For me, it’s not even about the money itself necessarily, but rather about knowledge of traditional wedding “norms” (which may or may not be important, depending on the couple). My husband-to-be comes from a big upper-class Virginian family, while I am the daughter of an (awesome) working class single mom, with no dad or siblings. Before I got engaged, I had no idea that, for example, the groom’s family traditionally pays for the rehearsal dinner. This expense was eliminated from my list of financial concerns when my future mother-in-law informed me that it was the groom’s family’s “responsibility” and promptly started planning a lovely dinner for all of our out-of-town guests. Until now I’ve just never been part of an inner circle who’s in the know about who’s paying for what parts of a wedding. My future MIL also advised me to obtain thank you cards soon after our engagement for the inevitable engagements gifts that would be coming our way. Engagement gifts?! Like separate from a wedding gift?! I had never heard of such a thing!

        • Eh

          Whenever someone told me it was someone’s responsibility to do something or pay for something I generally questioned it (e.g., does the tradition make sense for us?). When my now-husband asked his mother if they would host our rehearsal dinner her response was “of course it’s the groom’s family’s responsibility”. Traditionally it might be, but in this case it was convenience. My family was travelling from out of town and it was the first time our families were meeting. We got married in my husband’s hometown (where his parents still live) and we live an hour away. It just made sense. If we got married where my father lives then we would have asked him to host.
          I didn’t have a lot of exposure to the wedding planning side of weddings before my own (which I think is pretty common). We included cultural traditions that we liked but for the most part we did what we wanted, how we wanted. My MIL was a bit concerned about a few aspects but that’s because she couldn’t wrap her head around our vision. From the planning side, we also did what we liked. I manage projects at work so I managed my wedding like a project. This only annoyed one person who thought we were doing things too early because he always does things last minute (interestingly, my husband and I are both in weddings this summer and the couples for the weddings we are in have done things at about the same point as we did so clearly we didn’t do things too early).

      • Meg Keene

        There is a correlation, I think, for SURE. Weddings as they are traditionally presented are a middle class phenomenon in the US. It’s not uncorrelated that David and I grew up in a very poor area, and we have been to very few weddings (and the weddings we do go to rarely look like traditional weddings). Weddings (and marriage, sadly) are currently something of a economic privilege in this country.

        That doesn’t mean that you can’t have plenty of money and stumble around wedding planning, because a given wedding is the first in your family. But at least you normally have some sort of structure to put the wedding in, “Weddings normally look like X.” Not, “No one I know has gotten married in the last two decades, because weddings are not something anyone around here can afford.”

        We didn’t have the latter, our families were solid enough economically that they had a construct of weddings. But in general, it’s different where I grew up. It’s different in poor areas, in huge ways.

  • Sarah E

    Wow, that last paragraph. Damn, girl. You go.

  • Lindsey d.

    “she had one goal: to raise a daughter to become an independent woman, have an impact on the world”

    If she did this, it sounds like she became an independent woman and had an impact on the world too. Congratulations to you both.

    • Meg Keene

      This comment made me tear up. Fist bump to all the single mothers out there, doing the best they possibly can for their kids. I watched those moms my whole childhood.

  • Liz

    Beautiful. So impressed with your courage and dedication.

  • joanna b.n.

    So, since it sounds like you may be going the route of traditional wedding, one suggestion from someone who also was an only daughter raised by a single mom to be all I could be – consider carving out some time in the days leading up to the wedding for just the two of you to celebrate what you did together. My mom and I had a very tender brunch two days before our wedding, which I had to fight to get time for in the pre-wedding schedule, but it allowed us to really take it all in and share that moment together. I hope that you and your mom will find some space in which to honor each other and the profundity of this moment together amidst what can be a very busy, social time.

    • Meg Keene

      “consider carving out some time in the days leading up to the wedding for just the two of you to celebrate what you did together.” <3 <3 <3

  • Maggie Ray

    So this might be an unpopular opinion, but I’m wondering about this whole idea of a wedding as an accomplishment or an achievement. I mean, it’s wonderful that you fell in love with a great partner, but I find it frustrating that our culture views getting married as such an important achievement for women. Lots of women get married, regardless of socioeconomic resources or hard work. It seems to me that having a master’s degree is really where it’s at in terms of rising above and reaching up and forward. A wedding is a wonderful and beautiful thing, but I wish women’s hard work in education was celebrated in a way that garnered as much attention and “big dealish-ness” as something like higher education.

    • H

      So agree.

    • I wholeheartedly definitely agree that having a wedding is not an accomplishment, and I value my Master’s and many other things more than I do my ”big day”.

      My wedding is no big deal, seriously. We’re having a rather small, simple non-traditional wedding (30 people) which is meant to be a little intimate celebration with our families.

      HOWEVER, I do value the sybolism of my mother walking me down the aisle and giving me away. This tradition has been patriarchal by nature, but I would have never become the person that I am now (not just referring to educational accomplishments but to everything else about my character) and therefore I would have never found Cyril and had such a successful relationship with him if it weren’t for my mom.

      • Maggie Ray

        Totally get that. It’s awesome that you’re planning to honor your mother like that; I was just pointing out that I’m sure she’s already so proud of you.

    • I totally get this. I wish “just starting out” from college or high school were given as much hoopla as getting married. Starting out in the world is hard no matter who you are.

    • joanna b.n.

      So…. I also get what you’re saying, but I can represent why it was an accomplishment for us. My mom has tried multiple times to be in committed romantic relationships and just couldn’t make them work. And she wanted it, but then sort of couldn’t make herself want it more than what she had to give up. Then, at the same time, I wanted to be in a committed romantic relationship, and be able to build a baby family, and she wanted it for me (because I wanted it). So in some weird way, it IS an accomplishment that I found someone who I could be totally myself with and build a life with, because I had to work through some sh*t to be emotionally able to do that.