*Stephanie, Attorney/Writer & Alastair, Consultant/Adventurer*
Perhaps fitting for the week that I’m thinking so much about my own wedding, Stephanie’s story hits me right in the chest. Her description of discovering how your wedding feels right in the second that you are feeling it (Surprising! What? Like this! Oh!) is exactly, exactly how I felt. And her discussion of keeping your wedding with you, somehow, in your heart is, for me, exactly right. Plus, the dress, I mean, RIGHT?
The basic story of our wedding should be told in three chapters: planning, stressing, and then letting go.
My entire wedding planning experience was an exercise in calmness, of refusing to give into wedding planning hype, and of not stressing about the teeny tiny details. If I had it to do over again, I would do things the exact same way: make big, important decisions as early as practicable (for us, these decisions included the venue, guest list, and caterer) and then let the rest of the details fall into place around those big items without any second-guessing.
My husband Alastair and I were a team in this wedding planning business. We divided and conquered the planning process with the understanding that we’d seek each other’s input on big decisions but would trust each other to make small decisions on our own. He took the lead on some things (catering, drinks) and I took the lead on others (decorations, music). Other things we did together, sitting side by side at the kitchen table (invites, escort cards), or with help from our moms (wine, cake, flowers). It almost never felt stressful, except for a few fraught conversations early on about the guest list.
Were we lucky to sail through the process so unscathed? Probably—no catastrophes reared their ugly heads. But we also made a choice early on not to let things bug us and to roll with the punches once the big items were in place. Even up to the week before our wedding, although I was still struggling to try to picture how it would look and, more importantly, how it would feel, I felt calm. I could picture all the individual elements—our orange cake, the potted succulents on the tables, my ivory dress—but I couldn’t really imagine how it would all come together. I felt okay with the uncertainty, though, because we had everything planned out…
… Then, the two days before our wedding happened. Things started going wrong and I started getting stressed. Really stressed. First, the kind of alcohol we needed for our signature cocktails was sold out. And then our caterer, who had told us she could store our kegs in a fridge in the catering facility, informed us the day before the event that actually, there was no room, and we ended up having to put the kegs on ice underneath the front porch of some lady who we met in the beer store (we paid her—thank you again, kind lady!). And then our wedding coordinator threw out the hand painted wooden cake topper (painted to look like Tiny Me in a Tiny Dress and Tiny Alastair in a Tiny Kilt). And I forgot to make escort cards for several guests who had RSVPed. Whoops.
As these things happened, one after the other in rapid succession, both Al and I got stressed (“Our guests are going to have to drink WARM BEER and some of them won’t have SEATS and our cake won’t have a TOPPER and our programs aren’t FOLDED”) but we miraculously ended up finding quick fix solutions to everything (and our awesome cake lady found the topper, hooray!) and by the time I sat down for our rehearsal dinner the night before the wedding, my zen had returned. I had come to accept that even if people had to drink warm beer at the reception, it wouldn’t be the end of the world, and as long as Alastair and I ended up married, things would be a-okay.
The day of the wedding, I wasn’t really nervous until about an hour before, when my stomach started flipping and flopping like I was on a roller coaster. I hate roller coasters, by the way. I turned to my bridesmaids and mom and the photographer and said, in a panicked voice, while fanning myself with my hands, “You guys, I’m really nervous. Why am I nervous? Oh my God, why am I nervous?” They were all like, “Hi, you’re getting married in a second. It’s okay to be nervous. This is normal.”
The thing I was most nervous about was not marrying Alastair, but being the center of attention and sharing my super personal vows with our friends and family. This particular anxiety was bizarre for me because normally, I am what is generally referred to as an attention whore. I hog the mike at karaoke, I love public speaking, I sometimes—SOMETIMES—interrupt my husband to finish a story he’s telling. So the feeling of stage fright felt foreign and scary and surprising. All I could do was take a deep breath and let go. I let my feelings—nervousness, excitement, even a little embarrassment—wash over me. So, I thought, this is what my wedding feels like.
I walked down the aisle with both of my parents and tried to remember the advice people had given me before the wedding: focus on Alastair, try to take mental snapshots of individual moments, stay present, it’s okay if you cry. The whole time during the ceremony, I looked into Al’s eyes and felt at once clear-headed, nervous, and ecstatic. I read my vows in a loud, clear voice and listened to every word of his. I cried when my cousin read a beautiful poem (“The Wild Rose” by Wendell Berry) and cried when Alastair said his vows. I said “I do” too early and everyone laughed. I put the ring on his finger without dropping it, and remembered to take off my engagement ring so he could put the wedding ring on mine.
Walking back down the aisle, hand-in-hand with my new husband, and seeing all of the joyful faces looking back at us from the crowd, I felt lifted up by our community, which is not something I expected to feel so fully. Afterward, hugging our parents and cousins and friends and siblings, I felt like I was floating on a cloud of love and happiness. I never thought I’d describe anything, ever, as a “cloud of love and happiness,” but there you go. Your wedding makes you feel crazy things. This magical floating feeling stayed with me throughout the rest of the night, during the heart-wrenching and hilarious speeches and the crazy dance party and the couple of quiet moments with my new husband.
Now, a few months out, I can report that being married is awesome, and our wedding, as incredible as it was, was just the beginning. Looking at my wedding pictures, rereading our vows, and even just looking at my husband’s wedding ring on his finger all bring back that happy little cloud feeling. I hope it never goes away.