Kim & Brian

*Kim, Bereavement Counselor and Adjunct Psychology Professor & Brian, Animator and Graphic Designer*

So long time readers have been waiting for Kim‘s wedding graduate post for more than a year! A year! It’s been more than a year since she wrote about sky diving from an airplane as a way to celebrate letting go of her fear of marriage. So what has she been doing all this time, you might be asking yourself? Well, she’s been processing the fact that her wedding wasn’t perfect. She’s been coming to terms with the fact that she can love her wedding without liking it. And after last week’s discussions about how we come to terms with the fact that life, and weddings, don’t always look like we want them to, I couldn’t think of a more perfect person to bring the message home than Kim. That’s right. I said perfect. Because some things just are.

Okay, I’m coming clean: I didn’t like our wedding reception. I was jealous that our guests had more fun than I did. And most of all, I didn’t like who I was on that day. But I’m not here to vent about everything that went wrong. And I’m not even going to list all of the things my husband Brian and I should have done differently. (For example, I won’t say that Meg was right—you really, really need to have a coordinator/ stage manager for the day. Hint, hint.) Instead, I want to talk about how I, after lots of hard “inner work,” came to love our terrible wedding day without necessarily feeling obliged to like it. There’s a big difference. And that difference keeps me sane.

But first, in our wedding’s defense, many of our expectations were met. Our ceremony (officiated by Brian’s parents, both Methodist ministers), was casual, moving, and at times totally hilarious. The sense of community was magical and humbling, just like I knew it would be. And I, in that hour, was my best self: grateful, relaxed, affectionate, and cracking inappropriate jokes with impeccable timing.

However, the reception was another story. About two hours in, it became clear that for various reasons our reception would not be what I had hoped it would be—a reenactment of the final scene in Kevin Bacon’s 1984 big screen debut, Footloose. (That is, a dance party of epic proportions, so fun and wild that women break their high heels and men split their pants.) But that’s not what it was. It was different. And after a year of planning and fantasizing, I was not emotionally prepared for different. Where was Kevin Bacon when we needed him?

In response, I did what any conflict-avoiding introvert would do: I mentally checked out of my own wedding. I abandoned the dance floor—avoided it, actually—and spent the rest of the time floating around like a ghost, interacting with people but not being able to fully enjoy them, faking a smile for photos, putting out logistical fires, saying goodbye to the many guests who were leaving early (while battling thoughts like Oh god, is everyone bored?), and wishing that the torture would end.  On top of feeling totally bummed, I felt embarrassed for not having fun at my own wedding. I was me at my worst: depressed, discouraged, and silent. And I wished I was back at our hotel so that I could hide this side of me from everyone, including myself.

From the first day of our honeymoon onward, I suffered from post-wedding depression. There was the shame, guilt, and questioning of my sanity. There was the need to interview every woman on the planet to see if anyone out there could relate. And of course, there was the dreadful fear that I am, in fact, the only one.

My saving grace came in the form of a homemade video. During the week of our one year wedding anniversary nothing had changed; my brain was still being held hostage by would’ve-could’ve-should’ves. And it was in the midst of this regret that I began creating a highlight reel of our wedding reception using photos and video that our friends had taken. I wanted to make a keepsake that Brian and I could watch together on our anniversary. I wanted it to be a beautiful, simple, fun, and funny film because that’s what the day was, aside from the infamous Footloose flop and other disappointments. But in order to create a film like this, I needed to abandon my original expectations for the day and see the big picture.

What it boiled down to all along was that I had complete control over how I told the story of our wedding day. And while I could not change the past, I held the power to remember and interpret that day in any way I wanted. That’s because memories are created, not just by past events, but also by the meaning we make with them.

The process of creating the video also taught me a few things about myself. I realized that while I don’t need to have liked everything about our wedding, it’s important for me to feel like I loved it. I want to love it in the same way that I love my imperfect marriage. I want to love it like my husband loves the (very) imperfect me. I want to love it because it was mine.

I’ve also come to accept who I was on that day. When I reviewed the raw video footage, I saw that in a ten hour period I vacillated between being my best self and my worst self. I was me, squared. And I’m choosing to accept what that looks like. I have no choice, really; it simply must be this way. How else—but through surrender and full acceptance of myself—will I have the energy needed to do the hard work of learning and growing from the experience of being a disappointed bride?

And lastly, I now have a sense of humor about the whole thing. (Finally!) Brian and I refer to our  wedding anniversary as our “Oh, man!-iversary.” This year, too broke to celebrate with a fancy weekend getaway, we played frisbee on the beach and enjoyed a classy dinner at our favorite guilty pleasure—Pizza Hut. It was imperfect, a little sad, kinda funny, surprisingly awesome, and totally us. It was our wedding day, all over again.

Our wedding is a short but beloved chapter in the book about Who I Am. It is a chapter with a twist. It’s a chapter that taught me that the next time I’m stuck with the memory of a disappointing event, I’ll be brave enough to fight for my own well-being—that instead of wishing the past could change, I’ll be willing to change my relationship to the past itself, allowing it, in turn, to change me. For the better. No matter what.

The Info—PhotographyMarissa Navarro / Venue: Queens County Farm Museum / Dress: Dolly Couture

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  • At last, someone who can say out loud that they didn’t love their wedding with every fibre of their being. I thought I was the only one. After being engaged for 2 years, and planning a wedding of intimate friends and family, a magical weekend away, with everyone we loved, you know what I felt at the end? Deflated. Relieved. Not exhilarated and in love. Just glad the torment was over.
    I wanted an epic, fun dance party (but our families don’t dance), I wanted an incredible dessert table and gourmet canapes (but our wedding was in a rural country hotel, and our families aren’t canape people). I wanted so much more. But you know what? In the end I got what I needed. I got married to my best friend. I saw my dispassionate sister sob at my (self-written) ceremony. I saw my dad get drunk with my friends (never saw that coming).
    In the end, although I didn’t love it, my guests did, and their recollections have helped me re-remember it as better than I experienced it.
    Thank heavens for friends, right?

    • E.

      You are so not the only one. Like you, our guests *loved* our wedding, but I didn’t. I was let down by a lot of people, most hurtfully my parents. I’d spent a lot of time trying to make every one who attended feel loved and appreciated and a few very horrible things that day made me feel left out of the joy and intimacy of my own wedding. It was hard not to be able to share in the giddy happiness that our friends expressed right after the wedding, but, like Kim, I found photographs helped a lot. When our pictures finally arrived, I realized that, despite the drama, my family is smiling in every.single.picture. And so am I (or at least in most of them). Thank heavens for friends and husbands, who make marriage wonderful even if the wedding wasn’t necessarily.

      • Totally. Thank goodness for friends, family, the hubby, and photos that tell the other side of the story.

        Also, there was a Dr. Phil episode about brides who hated their weddings. The guests on the show were portrayed as being kind of nuts. SO not helpful!

  • First of all, all I can think of now is wow, your dress.
    And second, maybe more important, you are right about remembering what you need, what makes you happy, and what makes you a better person. For us, actually though I did not initially love our photos (we had the raw files maybe too early, two days after the wedding) all the good memories and the happy feelings from the day came back to me when watching the home made vide my mom put for us, so I could relate to your finally coming to terms with it while preparing the video for your anniversary.
    I don’t think weddings are supposed to be perfect.
    Anyway, here is hoping for a happily imperfect life :) (because yeah, it is hard, and a process to let-things-go, to learn that we-do-not-have-control over things ) and we have to learn to deal with that as graciously and joyously as possible.

  • The process you went through as you worked on that video is amazing.

    It seems like you did not only grow in your acceptance of your wedding day, but also in acceptance of yourself. I loved reading it.

    On a completely unrelated note. I love the lace shoulders your dress has. So sophisticated!

  • Your imperfect anniversary celebration sounds oh so perfect to me…. My fav moments with my husband are equally low key… and always surprisingly awesome.

    • Edelweiss

      We make hot dogs with mac ‘n cheese (my favorite guilty pleasure) and drink a cheap bottle of Rose every Valentine’s Day. We did it for money reasons the first year, but have kept the tradition up because it helps us keep the focus on appreciating all the small lovely bits of our relationship and helps me remember that the daily consideration we show each other are our true romantic gestures.

      • Eee, I love this. That’s all.

      • Aww, love that! (And mac ‘n cheese….mmmmm…)

  • Amy March

    For me this brings to mind a larger, and always important point- we live the lives we have, with the people we have. I’d love to host an elegant New Year’s Eve party with everyone dressed up and a bartender in the kitchen. But that just isn’t my friends. They’re all looking forward to my cocktails and christmas crafts afternoon instead.

    I find it easy to drift off into daydream land when thinking about my wedding, but this post is such an excellent reminder to embrace the reality of your life- after all, you met your partner in the real world!

  • Brianne

    I remember being so disappointed when it rained and ruined any chance of anyone playing lawn games and eating picnic style at my wedding. It was totally disheartening. I also remember being almost devastated when the bus came to pick everyone up, and I was like, wait, what happened to my wedding? It’s over? My husband and I were lucky enough that a total shit storm made us reevaluate our expectations right away, but I know that is a hard pill to swallow. i’m glad you got a chance to look upon the day with somewhat fresh eyes. What a great idea, too.

  • I think not really enjoying your wedding is way more common than you may think. A reception is a big party–and honestly, even small parties can have a different vibe than the one you really want. (Which is why I tend to stress out about even small gatherings at home.) But I love Kim’s reference to her wedding as a short chapter that taught her something about how she deals with disappointment. This is especially true for huge events like weddings, but is also great advice for those smaller disappointments in marriage and in life. Thank you for such a thoughtful, honest post, Kim.

  • I’ve been through a lot of major life experiences (college degree program, big jobs out of college, teaching abroad) that have not been as I expected them to be. I didn’t connect with the people I was working with, or I had landlord issues that put a damper on the entire experience, etc. And looking back, it’s easy to sink into a cycle where I only remember those things. But it’s also possible to look back and move past those things, and really search for the joy that I felt here and there.

    Since I”ve looked back on so many life experiences with a grimace, I’m worried that will happen with our wedding too. But you’ve shown me that it’s entirely possible to take the memories and change “the meaning we make with them.” This is so important to remember.

    And also, THE DRESS.

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  • Sara C.

    “That’s because memories are created, not just by past events, but also by the meaning we make with them.”

    So true – and so eloquent! You’ve allowed me to let go of some of my own anxiety towards my wedding, and the “fear” it wont’ turn out like I think it will.

    And the dress. You have me wondering if my seamstress can add the cap sleeves!

  • Great post, but allow me to be totally shallow and talk about your fabulous dress. A dress like that was what I was looking for but never found, settling for a nice strapless that never felt perfect. I have come to terms with this as you have come to terms with your wedding, but damn, that’s an awesome dress! Looks like a lovely wedding too.

    • The funny thing is that I designed this dress and had it custom made…and still, even thought it perfectly matched my standards, I was second-guessing my decisions all the way up to the wedding. (I LOVED wearing in the day of, though.) Which tells me that even if my wedding were the “perfect” dance party, I probably still would have obsessed over the few things that went wrong. Because that’s just me. And just because it’s your wedding doesn’t mean you will be (or should be) any different from who you normally are.

  • Aline

    I can totally relate! Especially about wishing I had hired a wedding coordinator for the day!

    As for other things: My dress and the ceremony weren’t exactly what I wanted. I, much like Kim, “checked out” during some parts in order to protect myself. There are pictures of me in which it is obvious I wasn’t listening to my own wedding ceremony!

    For a while after the wedding, I didn’t want to see pictures or talk about it or remember it. Then I talked with my husband about what we would have done differently. And he told me that despite all that, it was still the best wedding he had ever been to. Then I started listening when people told me they had fun, the music was great, the food was delicious… And I made peace with it. Kind of. I still wish there were do-overs in life so I could tweak a few things, but I really wouldn’t want to do it again!

    It has been almost two years and I still haven’t been able to get the photos ready…

  • This: “I want to love it in the same way that I love my imperfect marriage. I want to love it like my husband loves the (very) imperfect me. I want to love it because it was mine.”

    I love that. I’m sorry that your wedding day wasn’t what you wanted it to be, but I’m glad that you’ve come to terms with it for what it was. Now– go have a spectacular marriage. :)

  • Jo

    Love this post. It’s hard to wrap your head around it being okay that you didn’t like your wedding. There’s so much pressure for it to be THE ONE PERFECT DAY that you internalize a bit of it even if you avoid the Kn*t and everything else. I needed permission to not like it, to first accept that and have others accept that, and then move on to loving the parts of it that were great and surprising and wonderful. And to acknowledging that everyone was still them that day, including ME, and that’s to be expected. And in the end, appreciated.

  • Thank you Kim. I really needed this today.

  • This is why I know I need to get around to making an album of wedding photos. Not because our wedding wasn’t perfectly-exactly-what-we-needed, but because there were lots of aspects of it that I just didn’t like. And somehow, those are the aspects that my silly little brain chooses to latch onto sometimes. I love your description of reshaping memories and deciding what they mean for you – I’m in that process, too.

  • I’m going to second (third? fourth?) the OMG THE DRESS comments.

    Because seriously. OMG. I WANT.

    • Thank you! I designed it myself with the help of Dolly Couture. :)

      • PS. My dress is also sitting in my closet looking for a new home. I know APW doesn’t do dress giveaways anymore, but if anyone is interested in an unofficial-dress-giveaway-only-loosely-affiliated-with-APW, please let me know. ;)

        • francine

          oh. my. gracious. your dress is seriously beyond words! if i get engaged this holiday season i am most certainly hitting you up!!! :)

          • Yes, totally! Please do! Click over to my blog where you’ll find my contact info.

  • Sharon

    I felt very similar after our wedding because of things that happened the week before and during. I burst into tears at the reception and spent the rest of the night trying to recapture the joy I thought I was supposed to feel. But I fixated on what went wrong. For two months afterward I felt guilty for not liking my own wedding, and worried I would be jealous of my friends that got married soon after me for loving their weddings. ( I wasn’t. Not liking my own didn’t in any way diminish the happiness I felt for them on their wedding days.)

    I wasn’t fully able to finally allow myself to love parts of my wedding and hate other parts until I had a discussion with a friend, married a year, on how she didn’t like her wedding either. How she looked happy in the photos but didn’t remember feeling so at the time. Somehow finding another person who felt similarly, who had made it through the first year, let me draw back that curtain and finally think about the things I did love. Especially the fact that I married my husband.

    Thank you for this post.

    • Lainey

      Yes! Yet another person here in the “didn’t like my wedding” camp. Without getting too whiny, I was very disappointed by the people we chose to include and how they conducted themselves. It’s getting on a year now, and I’m not going to lie; I’m still bitter. Kim, I absolutely LOVE how the video helped you see the big picture. Really, the act of marrying your best friend is pretty darn amazing, no matter how it happens.

      • Sharon

        Yes, I know what you mean, and for us it was family members, so we will have to interact with them for the rest of our lives. I have faith that in 20 years, my husband and I will be able to laugh about “that thing” that happened at our wedding. But right now? I’m going to stop telling myself my feelings aren’t valid and just be. And I think that’s part of the process of healing. That and maybe a really awesome pair of shoes.

        • Yeah, it certainly helps to talk to people who can validate your feelings. I tried doing that with my husband during our honeymoon, but it was too soon for him to hear me sobbing and talking about how terrible it was; at the time he was angry that we’d spent all that money for something I didn’t like. So I guess it takes venting, and wise loved ones, and the processing of emotions. And all of these things take *time*.

  • I relate to SO MUCH of what you say here – about checking out mentally, about being jealous (!) that your guests had more fun than you, about floating from person to person but not really being present for those interactions. In my case it wasn’t even that the reception didn’t meet my expectations – it did – the problem was just that I didn’t. My body was a mess of stress and despite my best attempts to relax, I just couldn’t let go.

    In my case too, photos and a few grainy home videos have really helped. They let me see that even though I was struggling on the inside, I was having fun on the outside. And maybe I CAN re-frame that day in my mind. It was a year and a half ago and though I’m working my way to acceptance, it still stabs at my heart a little when my friends call their wedding day “the absolute best day of their lives” and truly mean it. It still feels like I really missed out on something amazing by not being the best version of myself on that day.

    • Wait, are you in the “I’m my own worst enemy” camp, like I am? ;)

      I HATE when I’m not the best version of myself on a given day. It seems like I’m always feeling guilty about some thing or another. At the same time, who actually IS the best version of themselves on most days? Not most people. Mother Theresa was, maybe?

      But part of what I learned from this whole experience was that even though I was not my best self at our wedding, I want to be my best self when I *think* about our wedding. And fortunately, that is something I still have the opportunity to do. There’s this wonderful George Eliot quote that goes “It is never too late to be what we might have been.” Amen to that!

  • Exactly- life isn’t perfect & weddings aren’t perfect. I did love my wedding but every once in awhile, the family drama & decor issues overtake my plentiful good memories. Eventually, I shake off those things & appreciate my wedding for all it was, imperfections included.

    Kim, thank you for sharing your story & helping other “I didn’t love my wedding” couples feel less alone.

    • That’s funny – the children’s bereavement program that I manage is called Koru. Here’s to new life, growth, and strength. Cheers!

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  • SUCH a powerful statement about the power we each have to shape the stories we tell… not just about our weddings, but in life.

    • Christa

      I am in largely the same boat: I planned the wedding I wanted before I got engaged, and by the time the wedding came around, it was more than I could handle. I got engaged in a hospital bed a week after I’d lost my right leg in an accident. I spent the two years between our engagement and wedding retooling a lot of my life. Another hard knock came when my mom was diagnosed with a fatal illness on the one year anniversary of my accident, and needed surgery the week before the wedding. Those challenges influenced the number of things I’m capable of managing, and a “big fat catholic wedding,” was simply too much for me at the time. Reportedly, everyone at the wedding had a great time except me.

      We do have the power to color our memories. Rose colored glasses are good at making even high school seem like the best time of your life (never mind the pimples and anxiety!). In the “Life Reports” that David Brooks is publishing in the New York times, he notes that those who seem to be happiest later in life are the ones who feel the least amount of regret: they’re admit but aren’t not bothered by past failures. So, it makes sense that choosing to remember the best parts of your wedding (and life) is likely to lead to greater long term happiness. But does insisting that everything was wonderful prevent us from learning? If putting on rose colored glasses means that we don’t acknowledge that sometimes we weren’t perfect, and those failings have sometimes it hurt ourselves and others, are we missing out on a chance to learn so we can avoid those failures in the future?

      I’m not saying that Kim or Ariel or anyone should do anything different, and in general, I think that the power to color our interpretation of the world in more loving and positive terms is underused, not overused. I’m just in a similar spot, noticing that I’m recoloring my memory of the wedding, it’s very different than how I felt just afterwards, and I’m not sure what it means.

      • Hi, Christa. Well, one thing is for sure – the challenges you faced around your wedding are on a whole other level than me not having Kevin Bacon at my reception. So there’s that.

        Like you, I don’t like the idea rose-colored glasses. But I do believe in broadening one’s perspective on a difficult situation. And that happens not from ignoring the truth, but accepting the crappy stuff that happened and adding on to it — adding the wisdom, insight, humor, etc. So you’re right – there’s a fine line between healthy re-framing and denial.

  • Yay, Kim! So glad to hear how this story turned out for you. I love that this post and your undergrad post focus so much on the internal work we can do to change our perspective on any situation. Big hugs to you!

    • Thanks, Sharon! Big hugs back. :)

  • AmErika

    You’ve just inspired me to write a post….thank you SO much for your honesty and sharing this with us. And your dress is gorgeous!!!

  • first-love the dress & veil!

    second-i love you had family members marry you! my grandpa is a methodist pastor and it was so cool to have him marry us.

    but most important. thank you thank you thank you for saying you didn’t like your wedding. i didn’t like mine either but i feel like i can’t really say that-like i have to meet somebody’s needs when they ask about the wedding.

  • What’s that Marilyn Monroe quote everyone likes using … “if you can’t take me at my worst you don’t deserve me at my best” (Something like that). Sounds like people got both sides of that coin at your wedding.

  • Moz

    A typically generous and honest post from the lovely Kim, who I’ve been reading long enough to know that she is still surprising and wonderful.

    You rule so very hard girl. Congrats on your marriage xx

  • Z

    Great post! I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy your wedding, but I’m glad you’ve managed to work through to a point where you can love it.

    On a shallow note, you look absolutely gorgeous in that dress!

  • LPC

    And all I could think was, ‘What a beautiful woman in such a beautiful dress:).”

  • I already don’t love my wedding and it’s 5 months away, so I appreciate your post b/c it helps me prepare for my anticipated disappointment actually happening. I want to feel the love and community and intimacy that so many wedding graduate posts mention (especially the ones where the wedding wasn’t as expected), and I am just afraid we won’t have it. I can’t put my finger on why. I am grateful to read that even if the wedding isn’t what I hope for, it can still be a happy memory for me, and I need to be reminded sometimes (okay, often) that an unloved wedding isn’t a portent of an unhappy marriage.

    Agreed that the dress is gorgeous. :)

  • Teffodee

    This is truly a beautiful post.




  • LindsayEliza

    I am late to the party on commenting on this post. I’ve been waiting and watching for it ever since I caught a request via Facebook from APW for posts from grads who didn’t love their weddings. Tonight, caught once again in the lingering cloud of self-doubt about my wedding, I came to see if anyone had taken Meg up on it. I’m so grateful you have come to the place of courage and peace (or at least progress towards peace?) that I haven’t found yet, Kim, enabling you to write this poignant and much needed post. I feel like a twin bride spirit to you. Much like your “worst enemy” moniker, my mom says I am “my own worst critic” and it’s so true. Several of our 100 gracious guests said our wedding was the best wedding they’d ever been to, but for me – I was tied up so deeply in planning it, I couldn’t separate myself enough from that process to just enjoy the day and not criticize it afterwards for not being perfect. At the same time, I find myself wondering how the wedding I am certain wasn’t perfect actually went sometimes, as the 9 months I spent planning it fell like sand through my fingers in the span of 5 hours the event actually took. Overwhelmed with moments, I feel like I hardly remember any of them and few of them were as epic as I expected all of them to be. I wanted that crazy dance party you wanted too – and I think it happened – but I don’t remember. It’s as if I was floating around in a cloud at my reception instead of being present and engaged and soaking up every gorgeous beautiful moment and I feel cheated by that. I’m also a recovering perfectionist and can think of ten things in ten seconds I wish I’d done differently for my wedding. That perfectionist streak makes it even harder to admit that my wedding wasn’t everything I expected it to be; to admit that I have spent the ensuing 7 months beating myself up for the imperfect thing it was. And it makes it hard to accept it for what it was. There is a special kind of shame in wedding world in not genuinely feeling that your own wedding was absolutely perfect. It’s a false shame though – it’s a feeling that shouldn’t exist. It’s wonderful how many choices we have now to personalize our weddings – but with that seems to come a lot of pressure to have the cutest/hippest/quaintest/most elegant/funnest/insert-superlative-here wedding. In addition to being a perfectionist, I am also one of those people who worries too much about what others think, which means I’ve worried about what everyone ELSE thought about my wedding. And where does that figure in to my memories of the most intimate day of MY life? There is a grounded part of me that realizes that I need to love that day for exactly what it was. Maybe it’s an audacious metaphor for people who are already mothers, but sometimes I feel like I gave birth to my wedding, gestating it for 9 months of planning, and entrusting it to my day-of coordinator “midwife” when the time came. How, then, could I not love it for the perfect reflection it was of my and my husband’s imperfect selves? I’ve rambled and this comment has ended up being more cathartic for me. But what I set out to do was to say right on and thanks for sharing, Kim :) Learning that I am not the only bride who has been dogged by her wedding day has made my Christmas Day. Blessings.

  • Maria

    Thank you for writing this. I was married last September and am still trying to come to terms with the fact that my wedding wasn’t all I was dreamt about. There were so many things I would have changed about my wedding looking back…but I’ve had to force myself to focus on the fact that I married my soul mate, my family had a wonderful time and life will offer so many more wonderful opportunities for me to cherish. While I am sad that your day wasn’t perfect either, I am happy that you shared this with us and you have made me really come to terms with how I’ve felt these past few months.

  • Stephanie

    I’m a 2-week wedding graduate, and this was just what I needed to read. Thank you!

  • Wow, so nice post, thanks for sharing. This wedding is so good, also the bride is beautiful.