The Next Chapter (Better Than The Last)

In our recent discussion of how our cultural expectations of a ‘perfect princess wedding day’ might be tied up with the cultural garbage that’s spewed about unhappy marriages, the always smart Lauren left this comment:

A friend and I have talked at length about another possibility for the “perfect day” syndrome, which is this: women (people, but let’s talk about brides for a minute) are inherently creative, but many women who work full time/go to school don’t have a natural creative outlet. They aren’t knitting or painting when they get home from work- they’re watching TV and reading People magazine. And on TV and in People, they’re seeing a bunch of famous, rich women who throw really expensive parties and wear a different gown/hairstyle to every red carpet event. So who cares if they screw up their hair one night- next week, they might be on the best dressed list. Fast forward to the wedding planning. Suddenly, these women HAVE a creative outlet, be it invitations, decor planning, color choices, AND they have a reason to throw a (very often) very expensive party and wear a gown and pick a hairstyle. However, they don’t have the money do to this every week, so they can only do it once. So of course it has to be perfect– they’ll never have the gown and the hair and this creative outlet again.

I think there is something really, really true here. Really true. How many of us were able to use our weddings as a fantastic (if high stress) outlet for our creative passions? It’s fun: the dress, the invitations, picking the photographers, doing the flowers. But. There can a huge downside. There is this feeling that we don’t want to let go of the wedding, because when we do we are stepping into the next phase of our lives: the wife phase, the mother phase, and we fear that may not as creative and fun. And because of that, so often we latch on to weddings, we can’t quite get over them, we can’t quite move on. It feels a little like… a trap. It feels like the hand we’re dealt is a hand that makes wedding planning seem like great creative fun, and married life seem like no fun at all. So lets not play that hand, shall we? Let’s cheat.

Last New Years Eve at the stroke of midnight a girl announced, “I’m so sad. I got married this year, and now it’s over.” And I felt sad for her, but whispered to David, “WE’RE getting married THIS year, yay!” So I was curious about how I would feel this New Years. Well, on one of the last days of the year, I spent the morning blasting our wedding playlist and cleaning out wedding scraps that were heaped on my desk. And I realized it was done. It was a wonderful (and stressful) and magical year, and I didn’t need to ever do it again. It turns out I was so excited to dive into the year ahead, that I was ready to let our wedding year go. I had our ambition squared projects. I had writing to do, I had a website to re-design, we had trips to take, we had an apartment to improve on, we had new career plans to forge, and a Law School graduation to look forward to. That, and our friends* threw a really, really amazing New Years party with giggling kids, bouncy Balkan music, and enormous hats to wear, so at the stroke of midnight I was happy to be exactly where I was. I was ready for THIS year, I was excited for what was right here right now, and for what was next.

So my question to you is this: how can we make married life, or really GROWN-UP life as tantalizing as wedding planning? How do we take that creative spark we enjoyed while wedding planning, and make ourselves just as alive tackling this next step? How do we take back the cultural noise and own this moment in our lives, this magical newlywed-ness? That’s my challenge for all of us this new year, newlywed or about-to-be-wed or simply grown-up. How can we grab the reigns of that creativity? How can we make this moment what we need it to be? How can we cheat with that hand we’re being dealt? What is next?

PS My last New Years thoughts are here… and I only looked at it AFTER I wrote this post. Interesting comparison…
*Full disclosure: also advertisers on the blog. And friends. And awesome.

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  • You're back!! Meg, I seriously missed you!

    I'm off to bed, but I'm going to think about your question and get back to you. I just needed you to know how excited I am that you are back.

  • I remember reading that comment on creativity and thinking what a valid and well-made point it was.

    Perhaps the rapidly rising number of blogs, sites like Flickr and Etsy even the return to gardening and the slow food movement, are a reflection of an innate need to be creative. To create. Something that the average cubicle job doesn't allow for?

    Happy New Year by the way!

  • Anonymous

    Wow. Lauren's comment definitely helps me understand my mini-obsession with weddings for the past few years (in spite of being not quite engaged). I always used to care about the marriage, not the wedding…until I began to look into wedding planning while helping friends, and *boom* it hit me: wedding obsession. However, lately I have noticed my need for an outlet, and when I was busy trying to bake the perfect holiday pies or constructing a fairy house for my niece, the wedding thing faded… Interesting. Thanks for the reality check, Meg & Lauren!

  • Lisa

    One of my new year's resolutions has to do with making time for creativity. I've decided that I will not be using my laptop after dinner (we also don't have cable). I know some people use their computer/the internet to write or create, but I don't. And I know that I can email, read blogs, and do web research earlier in the day. Whether I use this time to bake, embroider, write, knit, walk or whatever, I'm capping the amount of time and energy I put into passively consuming other people's creations.

  • sam

    I remember thinking Lauren's comment was very insightful.

    I'm a Midwest girl, so I grew up in 4H. For those who aren't familiar with it, it's a club for kids that encourages and facilitates the learning of all sorts of skills and crafts. Woodworking, painting, sewing, knitting, baking, sculpting, candle making, sketching, flower arranging… etc, etc.

    Then in college I was an art major so once again I had access to pottery wheels, darkrooms, metal workshops, painting & drawing studios, printmaking, glasswork… you get the idea.

    I am very lucky to have a job where I get to be creative every day, but it's not the same. It's on the computer, it's directed by clients, it's work. I enjoy it immensely, but it doesn't have at all the same feeling as say, forming a vase on the wheel.

    My wedding gave me the opportunity, or maybe I should say the incentive, to reconnect with some of those dusty skills. I sewed (a lot). Which I hadn't done in years. Which made me nervous and excited all at once. I remembered how much I enjoy working with my hands. Working on projects that take a long time, but are so worth it when you see the final result.

    Now that our wedding is in the past I have a list. Projects that I want to attempt, skills I want to re-learn or sharpen. I'm finally setting up my own studio space. I'm pursuing freelance opportunities. I'm really excited about being creative again.

    On another note, I totally agree with Meg about loving the wedding, having an awesome time with it, and never wanting to do it again. I think marriage is going to be an even better adventure, and I fully intend to carry on with finding outlets for creativity in it.

  • Hear, hear, Meg! I raise my glass (of, um, water–it's 8:22am) to toast to reconnnecting with our passions and making time for those things we truly want to prioritize (be it creativity or other endeavors). Glad you're back!

  • Liz

    i don't see how one can ignore all the possible ways to be creative in one day, let alone in one lifetime-long-relationship.

    in getting dressed. in cooking dinner. in picking furniture. in planning time to finish errands together. in setting goals for the year.

    if each aspect of your day (life?) is an attempted representation of who you are (remember when planning your weddding you wanted it to be "so us"?) you'll constantly be finding creative ways to express yourself.

  • LPC

    Creative AND recognized. It is a brilliant point. It's particularly rocky sometimes to be recognized in life after weddings. In marriage. In motherhood.

  • It's funny; the same thing happens to me on a smaller scale with seasons. In spring and summer, I'm all, "Yay! It's sunny! I'm going to make new sundresses for myself!" and whenever I'm feeling creative, I just sit down at the machine and whip up a new sundress out of some old fabric. Then winter comes, and although I know I probably COULD make winter clothes for myself…the season doesn't appeal to me, so the clothes don't appeal to me, so I get bored. I've made a couple of thick skirts for myself, but that's about it.

    And it's true that weddings spark that same creativity – last night, on a whim, I ran down to the basement and made a quick trial flower girl dress (I'd link to a picture, but a) don't know if that's allowed in comments and b) don't feel like looking up how, since I am not an html wizard. But it's on my blog if anyone cares to see).

    Convenience really is the enemy of creativity sometimes. When we have the option to buy clothes off the rack, most of us don't take the time to make our own. When we can buy premade meals, we don't create new recipes. We can watch TV, so we don't write or paint.

    Maybe the answer is not to try to push the creative envelope, but to get back to doing things ourselves…to let creativity stem from necessity.

  • Anonymous

    I think I once read something Miss Manners wrote about this. She said she believed that weddings had gotten so out-of-control because people had fewer dress-up social events nowadays, aside from weddings.

    She felt that weddings were more simple in the past because people had plenty of other events to dress up for or were more apt to entertain.

    I would add to that that women in general have far less time for the creative arts now that most of them work outside the home full-time.

    If you think about it, many of the "personal touches" in weddings could be used for any sort of entertaining you might want to do. If you knew you had a lifetime of creative entertaining ahead of you, it would be easier not to want to crowd every idea you ever had into your wedding.

  • I think a cultural cue we are given as women sometimes is that in order for us to be nurturing/feminine/etc., our own needs must come last. Hence the idea of a wedding as the last hurrah before settling into being a wife or mother – weddings seem to be the last frontier that still allow female "selfishness" in the sense that women are *expected* to think "It's all about me, me, me!"

    Maybe we should reclaim each day as our own and recognize creativity as important in and of itself rather than only important when used in service of a big event. Maybe that kind of thinking would take away from the stress of "perfect day" weddings and allow us to live a little bravely every day…

  • I really struggle with this. Not the PWD, but the creative outlet problem.

    I'm an engineer, and until I met my husband I thought I was a wholly non-creative type.

    But I remembered being a young girl and I was wildly creative then. So what happened?

    My husband is an artist, and he sort of reawakened that part of me. It wasn't gone, it just needed nurturing.

    Now, with his encouragement, I;m back to cooking, and knitting and drawing, and tonight I start my first painting class at the local cultural center.

    But maybe I'm just one of the lucky ones.

  • Great post. I am just getting started on my wedding planning and it's so exciting! How often do you get to throw a great big party, dress like a princess, and be the star of it all? Not very. It's fun. I think after it's over I might feel a sense of let down. When you focus so much of your energies on something and look forward to it for so long it's probably natural to feel a bit of a let down once it's over. You have to think about what the whole point of it all was though? This man. This marriage that you now get to cultivate and nurture. So, throw your energies into learning how to cook, improving the decor of your house, blogging about non wedding things work too!! At least that's my plan.

  • I definitely agree with what someone else said–how can one ignore the many creative opportunities that present themselves every day?

    For me, living is synonymous with creativity.

    I am blessed to have a very creative mother. She is a very talented artist–but by day moonlights as a registered nurse! She is such a stunning example of how a woman can balance a very demanding career & four children with artistic flair. My birthday presents? Very often they were handmade by mom. I remember her taking two years to build a stunning Victorian dollhouse for me, complete with handmade miniature furniture. It was the most magnificent thing I'd ever seen.

    But the point is that she never lost her creativity. How did she marry my father? In a courthouse!

    I find it interesting that some of the most creative people I know have chosen 'non-traditional paths to marriage'.

    Now that I'm planning my own wedding, I find myself dreaming much further beyond the wedding itself. I find myself dreaming of creating the perfect home with my future husband, but have never once had the consuming desire for a certain kind of wedding. I know, because of my mother's example, that regardless of HOW I get married, I will be married. I will lead a beautiful life, if I take the time to make it beautiful.

  • Welcome back Meg! I'm completely jealous of your awesome New Year; my husband dislocated his knee that day so out New Year's Eve was spent with our bed and Dr. Who. (It was interesting to note that it was only my single friends who thought I should go ahead and leave him at home and go out like he told me I should. Am I alone in thinking that I'd rather have a boring New Year's with my husband than a crazy one without him?)

    I think Lauren is spot on. And I think part of the problem is that we (I was totally one of these women) also use the wedding to try NEW creative things. And I’m not just talking about just about DIY, but even event planning in general! Not only do we throw our whole selves into it because it’s one of our few chances, it’s even worse because it’s usually our FIRST chance. And that's when things get crazy because you're learning a new skill or improving on a casual one you already had. And then it's even more important because it's your WEDDING. And with that wedding comes a deadline and people offering opinions and then you're at home surrounded by seating charts and glitter and crying into your glue stick.

    The great part about me being DIY crazy-girl was that I did rediscover that awesome creativity that I'd lost. I didn't have a hobby for so long because I was a theatre kid so I got to be creative ALL the time, so much so that I dreaded it when a professor decided we needed a "fun" project. I was artistically spoiled, so when I stopped doing it so much I didn't really how I missed using that part of my personality.
    But my wedding has gotten me back into being crafty and creative. And in order to be fun and creative without pressure of deadlines or peer judgment, I've been doing some charity crafting. And there are SO many organizations for this, it's ridiculous. There are ways to volunteer if you make cards, can knit, crochet, sew, etc…that way you can fuel your creativity and pretend you're being completely altruistic, when really you're having a blast making stuff.

  • I can definitely feel this. I had no problem letting our wedding pass, but I really reveled in the (incredibly stressful) creativity I was able to express, too.

    For me, when I think of creativity I think of crafting (like making cards, sewing, scrapbooking) and cooking too (especially if there are multiple colors of frosting involved!). However, I think a lot of people associate these activities with Stay at Home Moms, housewives and domesticity. While I think there has been a definite shift toward career women embracing some domestic hobbies or talents, I still believe there is a lot of backlash for the business woman who loves to knit or scrapbook or bake too. To many modern women (and men too) it's not cool to enjoy (for example) cooking. Sewing's what their moms (or grandmas) did because they couldn't afford to simply buy the finished product. Know what I mean?

    Surfing the Internet and watching TV in our spare time are safe, pop-culture sensitive "hobbies". I think any woman (or man) who wants to be creative needs to dare to Just Say No to prime time. At least once in a while. Hobbies keep our lives rich, our souls happy, and (hopefully) our married lives strong too.

  • Ellie

    I think this is part of why so many brides go on to start photography or graphic design businesses after their weddings – they remember that creativity is fun. And creativity makes wedding planning fun. I love blogging about my wedding because I love writing, period. So I'm on a mission to find other ways to write, without it necessarily being about weddings. I'm also starting my own photo project and hoping to sew more. So I'm hoping that will help me transition from "wedding planner" to "wife".

  • TNM

    Well, my wedding three months ago was certainly a creative impetus. Or at least I went from zero creative activity to at least a-little-creative-activity-plus-my-first-art-class.

    As one of the commentators mentioned above, I think one of the reasons weddings are a powerful creative outlet is the public nature or recognition of the bride/groom's creations. Yes, as many have noted, there are many everyday opportunities to create – but rarely is my cooking, however inventive, really a public act or creative communication. I suppose that viewed negatively, this public aspect means that wedding-inspired creativity may just devolve into self-promotion, an explosion of crafting that is just all about the couple ("it's soooo us!"). On the other hand, I think much of art or creativity is spurred by the desire to communicate to others or create something that pleases and is useful to others. A wedding, unlike more private creative outlets, allows this type of public creative activity. And what's more, sets a deadline on it (for the creative perfectionists and self-doubters).

  • Nice. I don't think we had any "we're getting married this year!" thoughts at New Year's last year, but this year, TCB toasted me and said "here's to starting our first full year of being married"

  • Liz

    tnm- i think that desire for public self expression should be partially realized in marriage itself, shouldn't it? one of the many motivations for expressing oneself is to be "understood."

  • Amy

    I agree with you. I was prepared to feel a little down post wedding that it was all over, but really… I was just excited.. still. I was excited to cook pot roast, excited to be called Mrs., excited to be a wife, excited to have time to finish a book, learn to knit, play video games, and be a person who wasn't obsessed with weddings anymore.

    Life is exciting every day for a lifetime. Weddings are exciting for a little while.

  • "So my question to you is this: how can we make married life, or really GROWN-UP life as tantalizing as wedding planning?"

    — I actually think there's a role for premarital classes here.

    As has already been mentioned, being creative (to me at least) is as much about being creative about how you live your life, how you cultivate your relationships, how and what you do day-to-day, as it is about crafting, DIY'ing, cooking, etc.

    So if that's the case, then a good premarital course helps you think beyond the wedding, not just in the typical "have you talked about money??" kind of way, but in the fabulous and potentially hugely creative "how do you want to be as a couple?" kind of way.

    I've definitely found that our premarital course has been a way to foster long-term thinking and creativity about our relationship and our life. It helps keep the wedding planning in check and at the same time makes you feel like you're planning your life and marriage long past the wedding, ramping up the creativity there.

  • Sarah

    i hope to bring creativity to my life… our lives… in little ways each and every day. whether it's wearing a fun new outfit, decorating our apartment, or cooking a new meal. the wedding has been an exciting and different creative outlet for me, but i know that in the end it is just one day, amidst a sea of days that will make up the rest of our lives. i don't want to fall into a trap of boredom, but i also recognizing that while everyday can't be that "special", it doesn't mean that we can't make each day special in simple ways, by vowing to be present, appreciate the little things, and love each other every day.

  • Peonies and Polaroids

    I wonder if weddings are a 'safe place' to let oneself be creative, to let oneself experiment and have fun. Because being a grown up is scary and although people do get all crazy over weddings and what might happen if it all goes wrong, don't people know, deep down, that even if it doesn't quite work out as you planned then it's no great loss. Whereas life on the other hand? If THAT goes wrong then you're screwed.

    I think that the only way to make being a grown up more tantalising, more creative, more exciting is to forget the notion of perfection, the idea that if it doesn't go according to plan then you're fucked and to be able to play with it again, the way we play with weddings.

  • I totally agree with Lauren…and @Ellie i think you're totally right!

    I have to admit that while I am a creative person and LOVE projects…I'm not enjoying wedding planning so far. Maybe it's because I've been going to school, working full time, dealing with the holidays and have a house that needs remodeling, but I'm really just not in the mood. I just want to hand it over to someone else to do the research. I want to make decisions, but I don't want to set up meetings or pick out flowers. Maybe this is a good thing because I won't be so anal…but I know I'm going to care on the day of.

    In my head I've already moved on to a kitchen remodel and starting a new career. I started off OBSESSED with creative DIY projects and while I'm SO looking forward to my wedding day, but am finding the daunting "to do" list of wedding projects to be sapping my creativity.

  • agirl

    I like what Peonies said.

    And I thought Lauren's comment was pretty insightful at the time. Lord knows I'm suddenly being a lot more creative now post-wedding after a couple dry 'grown-up' years.

    But seriously? I'm in continual search of a way to make grown-up life more tantalising. I'm increasingly convinced that it involves reconsidering what People magazine tells me to be important (career, material stuff, money, status – not that I read People). Any other ideas, let me know…

  • I am totally guilty of using my upcoming wedding for a creative outlet, but I don't think I feel pressure to make it perfect (yet).

    It's just that my "day job" isn't really creatively inclined, and I feel I haven't really taken the time to be "creative" since high school art classes. I am glad I found the blogosphere because it definitely fuels my creative desires, but I like Lisa's idea about not just reading about crafting but DOING it when I get home from work. I have been pretty bad about that.

    Meg, your upcoming year sounds pretty exciting, I think it's a good idea to focus on the exciting changes/projects we all have coming up, and if there are none – make some!

  • Meg

    Or maybe that's normal? It is a big life event, after all. I had post-graduation depression. It totally happens.

  • I too got married in 2009, and as my husband and I were talking about 2009, he said he didn't think we were going to be able to top it. I smiled and, almost don't want to admit, Brad Paisley's newish song "Then" started running through my brain and I found myself excited to see how life finds ways to top 2009.

    I did have some sad moments, and maybe some creative withdrawl (I'll have to ponder on that, but I think I agree) that the big day was all over. But, after this past weekend's conversation and contemplation, I'm feeling liberated. Somehow, the things you think are the absolute most fun, most awesome things you've ever done get topped along the way. I can't wait to see how life tops what was the happiest day of my life so far.

  • I feel the same way. I got married in October, and wrote a recap two nights ago in my journal to make sure I remembered what was important, how I felt, all the little bits that can fade with memory. And as soon as I order photos to put into frames, I am done with the wedding. (Mentally, I'm already done with it, but physically, I need to get those photos printed!) And now on to something else. NYE was spent with my new in-laws, friends, and my husband, and we enjoyed our first married New Year's together :)

  • i personally did not feel any letdown at all. the whole weekend of our wedding was amazing and blissful, but after it was over all i felt was relief that i didn't have wedding planning hanging over my head and excitement to get back to regular life. this new year's i felt excited about making new goals for the year that didn't include wedding stuff. i am excited to get going on our life together. so i feel it's safe to say that two months into the marriage i don't feel postnuptial depression. but i also have to wonder if the letdown comes along with the big buildup to the "perfect day?" if you base your wedding planning around the concept "it's just a day, the marriage is the thing," does that ease/prevent the letdown from occurring and enable us to feel excited even after the wedding is over?
    i think getting excited about the life you are creating together, the planning, the visioning, goal-setting is important to keeping that creative element alive.

  • Like Sara's post over at 2000dollarwedding, this post really has me thinking about what I want my life to be. I'm actually pre-engagement (though the engagement isn't too far off) so I can't really comment about the post-wedding feelings that some brides experience.

    I've often felt the desire to be more creative and to be more productive with my time. But never in my life (childhood or adulthood) did that ever happen. I never learned to sew, or do pottery, or anything else so I feel rather inept trying it now. Or the things that I would be most inclined to make are not some of the simpler things to sew that frequently are beautiful (but not my taste), but rather the difficult, challenging, you'll need years to learn to be able to do this. And I don't quite have that patience (yet).

    The few good things going for me is my joy in throwing dinner parties and traveling. But I definitely feel the need to be more proactive and more engaged with life and my community, on a more regular basis than dinner parties and traveling allow. Thanks for inspiring me to do more!

  • Marisa-Andrea

    I will admit it here: I am at a complete loss. Throughout planning our wedding, I definitely found myself struggling with the PWD and I have no idea why. I. Have. NO. Clue. It felt completely out of character the times it did happen because I would always think "wait, there is no such THING as a perfect ANYthing and WHY do I care?!" I have creative outlets and did not really view my wedding as an opportunity to be creative. I have no problem owning and sometimes embracing selfishness and our wedding was definitely NOT all about me anyway. But yet I found myself doing it: obsessing because I needed things to come out exactly the way I envisioned. Maybe subsciously I bought into all of the craziness and just didn't know it…or I was in denial.

  • I don't think I've ever posted before (although I visit a lot), but this post is so interesting to me because I feel the opposite about wedding-planning-life vs. married-life. I am so much happier and fulfilled now that the wedding is over and "real life" is settling in.

    Not that I don't agree with the commenter about wedding planning being a seemingly once-in-a-lifetime creative outlet. It was a great excuse to give myself the time to dream up and make things. I think the way we can "cheat the hand" and create our own creative moment as married people is to hold onto that sense of being *allowed* to have a creative outlet.

    I still read wedding-planning blogs, but it's dwindling fast. I've gotten a taste of having personal time outside of work and want to keep it. I'm striving to carve out time for myself to be creative (starting a 2nd blog, cooking, learning to use my sewing machine) and I'm trying to include my husband as much as possible (mostly because he's teaching *me* to use the sewing machine!)

  • obviously just get pregnant and make a baby instead of a wedding! then you can pour your creative energy into a little person for the rest of your life.

    pretty exciting, it seems to me.

  • This is an excellent, excellent post and one that resonates A LOT with me. I *loved* planning our wedding, I *loved* all of the creativity involved. I've found myself in the past few months casting about for something to fill that void – here is what I have planned for this year:

    * Learning to knit — because i've seen some hella awesome stuff out there and i want to make some of it
    * Learning to bake and cook — It's challenging, but it's still pretty and yummy and social, especially when you can give out all of your results!
    * Taking part — I'm pretty bad about passing on little daily opportunities, but lately i've found myself joining fun little online swaps, and agreeing to various charity challenges.

    I can understand why many women get pregnant not long after getting married – there really is a hole in your every day life, and having a baby is certainly one way to pour yourself into something new and exciting. I'm going to try to focus on learning how to be a wife (whatever that means) and see how it goes!

  • I have been thinking about this lately and recently blogged about the same topic. I think it's important to not only plan for the wedding but also remember to plan for your marriage. Engagement isn't just about planning the wedding. It is about planning your life together. I think it is about remembering the big picture…your relationship and marriage. The wedding is not the big picture. It is an amazing day that begins the rest of your life!

  • So I came upon this post several weeks after it was written. I have been searching online for why I am feeling so sad now that my wedding is over. Exactly a week ago, we were finishing our first dance. I had a wonderful time, things did go wrong but only a handful of people noticed, if any. It was an emotional roller coaster that ended on an absolute high. I was not exactly prepared for how emotionally taxing the weekend would be (in a mostly good way) and coming down from it is tough. I keep thinking of my non-creative job and how I finally got to be creative with the wedding. I almost went to art school 10 years ago but now I am a scientist and well, I had no idea how much I craved a creative outlet until the wedding planning started.