Why My Wedding Was Not Like My Birthday

Today Ashley, who writes at Newly L.A., is here to talk about what changed for her after getting married, the process of building her baby family. You’ll remember Ashley from her parents Vintage Wedding in Golden Gate Park. Here she talks  about building the foundation for expanding her family one day, but I think the idea of the transformative power of marriage, the creation of family and permanence, holds true whether or not we ever plan to add people to our family. So here is Ashley, discussing why her wedding was not, in fact, like her birthday

When I imagined waking up on the morning after my wedding, I thought it would be just like waking up on the morning of my birthday – everyone mockingly asking “how does it feel?” and me answering, as expected, “same as yesterday.”  Not that I didn’t think our wedding would be a totally awesome celebration; I just thought it would be more like a big party than a game changer.  We had been together for five years; what could a few promises and a license have on us, right?

But it turns out, for me, getting married was most definitely not like turning a year older, and being married is definitely not like being not married. The difference is that now, we have albums.

When I was engaged, I spent a good amount of time thinking about the merger of our two extended families – you know, the usual issues of how we would split up holidays and handle family gatherings.  But my thoughts never extended past my static vision of “family” where I played the role of daughter, granddaughter, niece.  What I failed to wrap my head around was the fact that our wedding would also mark the transformation of my life-date into my closest family member, my emergency contact, and the face connected to mine by a horizontal line on the family tree diagram.  How do you conceptualize something so hugely transformative?

With pictures.

Just before our wedding, I was looking at old family photos of my parents as newlyweds and me as a child, and I had a moment where I felt my perspective shift.  I realized that my parents must have consciously preserved these memories in anticipation of sharing these albums with me when I came along, and I had a vision of me and my fiance on the other side of this scene one day, sharing our own family albums and explaining what it was like to be just married.  It was a quiet, heavy realization, like an emotional handing off of responsibility.  My parents had grown their family, and had collected their history in these albums, and now it was our turn, and our duty to cultivate our own family so that we would have a story to pass on when it expanded.  And of course, to tell our story, we needed albums.

It was a daunting thought, taking on the responsibility of growing a new family.  But after I recovered from my minor panic attack à la Carrie Bradshaw when she breaks into hives in the wedding dress shop, I was excited. Only a small part of this excitement was about having an excuse to buy a new photo album.  Most of it was due to my late-in-the-game realization that my birthday hypothesis had been short-sighted.  I had missed the essential point that this wedding that I had dismissed as a formality would grant me a new family member and a whole new baby family to raise, which was so much more than I ever thought the label “husband” entailed.  Armed with a new perspective, I could hardly wait to see how it would feel to wake up the morning after our nuptials and be family.

Once we were married, I promptly bought an album and began my photo-printing project.  At first, I felt silly.  I mean, who actually prints out amateur point-and-shoot candids of seemingly unimportant events?  I was sure the photo-printing people were secretly laughing at me.  But as I stood at the cashier paying for my first pack of freshly printed glossies, I felt legitimate.  These were for a family photo album after all, and what could be more legitimate than that?

Now, slipping the pictures into the 4×6 plastic sleeves of our album makes my heart swell with pride, and reminds me of how naive I was to think that our wedding would be just like a birthday.  Before we were married, the file folders of jpegs on my laptop did the job of preserving our memories just fine.  But now?  Now that’s not enough.  Now, we have hard-bound, paper-printed, legitimate family albums.

Because now? I’m with this guy. For good.

Wedding photo by Leonel Medrano, others by family/friends

Featured Sponsored Content

  • Jo

    Aww! Now I want albums. Maybe getting married will be enough to revitalize my scrapbooking love?

    This is hilariously titled coming today, because just yesterday I told Carson in the car: “Having a wedding/bachelorette/shower is just like a birthday: there’s all this pressure on it to be perfect and significant and fun and awesome, and the people around you are going to let you down because they didn’t get your expectation memo. I/we/you have to let go and expect nothing, or expect realistically, in order to enjoy it.”

  • I’ve actually been thinking about this a lot lately too, and have finally started arranging our photos into neat “to be printed” files so that I can finally put together a solid photo album or two. I loved looking through my parents’ albums when I was a child (and still do), and it suddenly struck me that I wanted to have something more solid to show our eventual children, of our lives together before them, and then, when the time comes, of our lives together with them. Thanks for putting this so eloquently.

    • Tina

      I get this. And, I have been pondering the same thing. Film was a precious commodity to many people back in the day. Now we can take photos of anything we want, and have 40 shots of the same thing until it’s juuuuuust right. There’s so much pressure for what to put in an album. But, I learned from traveling that no one wants to see 400 shots of the Galapagos Islands or whatever adventure you’ve just come back from. I think photo albums still have their place.

      As a young girl, and today, I pulled out our family albums all the time to reflect, ponder, and ask questions. I want my future children to have that same benefit. This may seem morbid, but I always wonder what people of the future will find from the 21st century. I’m always distraught that it may just be metal boxes that don’t convey the lives we’ve lived like a printed photograph can.

      All this to say that I love this post and completely understand where she’s coming from!

  • Oddly enough, I was surprised with a party for my birthday this weekend. ‘I wonder if this what the wedding will be like’ I thought. In fact I actually thought, I kinda wish we could have got married today and this could have been the reception!

    I’m still not convinced much will change for us. We already have albums and our names in each other’s passports. I think we’ve known for while that we are ‘for good’. I do however think that other people’s perception of us seems to have changed/be changing. I wasn’t ready for the difference it would make to our families that it will be ‘official’.

    • liz

      i don’t know if it’s the presence of albums that changed for her. i got the vibe from the post that it’s the responsibility if being a family and documenting and preserving the special pieces of that family that hit ashley hard- and that’s what the albums signified for her.

      but perhaps that’s just my reading of it.

      • I got that too – I didn’t mean to under-value the significance of that realisation. My point was more that -for us- it has been other people making that connection about us, recognising what we already had between ourselves. I didn’t know that they didn’t know.
        Writing eloquently is not my forte :(

        • liz

          my fault! i read your comment as, “um. we already have albums. so i guess we’re set.” haha. too early in the morning…

          • For me, marriage has changed both how I feel about our relationship, and also how other people in our families treat us. I had known for a long time before our wedding that we would be together forever, but I don’t think I understood for a while that marriage was so much more than dating. And part of that is the difference in how I thought about our relationship, and part of it is the difference in how others perceive our relationship and treat us, and that, in turn, makes you feel a little different too, I think.

        • Loz

          We had the same experience. By the time we got married, we had been together a long time, had a mortgage, and had plans for our retirement. We spent a long time questioning whether to get married or not, but never for a second questioned the permenence of our relationship.

          So I was gobsmacked when his family started treating me differently after we were engaged, and again after we were married. I never realised that they didn’t see our relationship the same way we did.

          • Adrini

            This is the one thing I’m expecting to change as well. We don’t have a mortgage , but we already have a life together. It’s already there. We’ve also, sadly, faced death together more times then either of us would have wanted. My one big fear of disappointment is that after bonding by dealing with death so many times words, a ceremony and some partying just won’t as the meaning I keep reading about. The one thing I KNOW will change is how family sees us. Friends caught on long ago but family tends to be more traditional.

  • I know what you mean – I love the ease of digital cameras, and I hate that nothing ever seems to make its way onto paper anymore! I love the idea that being married means you take the time to document this stuff, to share with the next generation(s) :)

    also, I want your living room.

  • Love this post! It makes me want to take (and print!) more photos.

    We’re moving in three days, so maybe our first two can be us in front of our old place and our new place. :)

    • Meredyth

      Ohhh, good idea! We’re moving shortly after our wedding.

      One thing that I wish is that our point and shoot photos could achieve the sheen of nostalgia instantly. I’ve always loved the look of old photos and mine just don’t stand up, which is one reason I’m not into albums. Vanity. But I love the way Ashley writes about it here and I’ll have to just get over myself because I loved looking at my parents’ photos as a kid too, and would like to pass that on.

      • I love the vintage quality of old photos, too, and I sometimes wonder if my pictures will somehow look “vintage” to my own children…but then I realize that they will probably just look hilariously outdated instead ha.

        • I dunno, I think it just takes a few decades. The pictures of me as an older kid? Outdated. The pictures of me as a small child/the wedding photographs of my parents/random snapshots of my grandparents when they were young? Definitely have turned that corner from outdated to vintage. Plus, the 80s is vintage now, didn’tchakno.

  • Carbon Girl

    What a wonderful and timely post. We are about to go on a big vacation (to Sweden!) and I was just thinking today how I will need to make a photo album when we come back to you know have around for any potential offspring! Also, must finish the wedding album!

  • rachel

    So wonderful! I came to this realization recently too, and for my husband’s birthday, I made him an “Adventure Book” (a la the movie “Up”) of our relationship so far and places we want to go…Tickets from concerts and other paper memorabilia are tucked in along with the pictures, as well as the note I left him one morning informing him of two positive pregnancy tests ;) I have treasured putting together this album so far, and I suspect our wee ones will also treasure it down the road (much like I have giggled at pictures of my newlywed parents in their English flat, surrounded by their pets). So, print those pictures people! :)

  • Very interesting!

    I’m bookmarking this and will reread it five months and six days from now – when I wake up after my wedding night. Thank you for giving me this perspective.

    As an aside: the picture of you on the ladder together is lovely :)

    • Aw, congrats for your upcoming wedding! Waking up on the morning after a wedding is really the absolute best feeling, and one that I hope I remember forever.

  • that’s so nice your family has all those neat photo albums for you to flip through.. in my dad’s house, it’s just two gigantic boxes of mostly loose photographs. womp womp. I have definitely inherited this laziness with albums problem.. but I have known the joy of looking at photo albums in Other family homes, and I aspire to change our family tradition. So far.. I do at least have a wedding book. but you’ve really inspired me to at least Think of a plan for our photos..

    also that photo from your ceremony is just Gorgeoussss.

    • Jen M

      My family had one random album and everything else was in shoeboxes, too. My grandmother on the other hand, that woman had albums down. They were leather with the date range of the photos embossed on the binding and the front cover. Class.
      I just do the shutterfly albums, but I figure it’s a start.

    • Can I suggest considering turning to the internet? I used inkubook.com to make some albums, and it works perfectly if you don’t want to actually have to fuss with piles of pictures. Nice quality paper, hardcover, binding, fun layouts… I also do big vacation scrapbook things, because of all the random paper crap I collect, but printed albums are pretty great. Espcially for general life snapshots, where everything’s digital.

      No connection with inkubook, I was just really happy with the quality. We did wedding albums for out parents though them, and have got rave reviews from dozens of people about how professional they look.

      • awesome, thanks! will definitely look into that.

      • A-L

        You also might want to consider Adoramapix. Their prices are a bit higher than some of the regular online photo album creation places, but it shows in the quality as well. I first found out about it from our photographer (that’s where she does all her albums) and then I researched the issue online, and suffice it to say, we’re thrilled with the album we made.

  • We never did print photos of our wedding (which was a good while ago) and last night I was looking around online for photo printing places because I want some hard copy photos in a couple of frames and in an album. My husband is fine with looking at photos infrequently and only on a computer, but I have always loved regularly looking at pictures in frames and photo albums that I can hold and flip through at a leisurely pace as I reflect and remember, and also daydream about what possibilities lie ahead. Looking at hard copy photo albums brings me a lot of joy, so this post is an encouragement to get with it and get those photos printed (and actually put in an album)! Thanks!

    (And I like being reminded of the archival aspect of intentionally creating a visual record of the story to be able to readily share it with others…)

    • I liked inkubooks. Quality was pretty high, and price was totally reasonable. Also, they always have sales coupons.

  • Yay I can finally post as a wife!

    I definitely felt this way. For me it was realizing that going to visit my in-laws now feels like US visiting OUR family. I thought I felt merged in since we did joint holidays last year after getting engaged but no. It feels different. I feel like I traded in my guest pass for a permanent family one.

  • brendalynn

    This! Aww, why am I crying at my computer again?

    This post really touched me. Maybe because I’ve been thinking similar thoughts — and wondering if we’ll look sweet and young and quaint when our (future) children look back at their omg-they’re-so-young parents, even though I feel so old already!

    I have a pack of newlywed photos from my grandparents that I’ve been meaning to make into a printed album to share with the rest of the family… They’re random shots on the beach and traveling with friends that didn’t all make it into albums even, so I imagine they were thinking the same thing we often do, about the silly lightness of casual snapshots. But these photos are so touching to look at now!

    Gotta get to PRINTING!

  • Dorothy

    Nice post. I love the idea of something so simple having such a huge meaning in the identity of ‘being married’ and starting a new family.

  • Jo

    Yes! At our one year wedding anniversary, we decided to (at least) start putting a few pages of pictures in an album for the prior year. And that we’d continue the tradition each anniversary. A benchmark reminder to create that critical album for our baby family. And I say “at least” because I don’t know about you, but making time to put together photo albums is a little bit of a challenge for us. So we were marking that this was important enough that we needed to do it. Every year. And it felt important, once we did it too. This is our history we’re building.

    Good stuff, Ashley!

    • How nice your albums will be! I have a friend who also made a one-year album as a first year anniversary gift for her husband. It was so sweet and I loved the idea.

  • Mallory

    What a lovely post, and a good reminder that documenting our lives is important and meaningful, both for us and the generations that follow. It seems like “printing photos” is one of those things that is infinitely on my to-do list but never gets done… but I’m the only one standing in the way of it’s completion so maybe this post is the kick in the butt I need to get my photos up to date.

  • Amanda

    Yeah… my mom was a big album maker, so I guess I have it from there. Then my best friend introduced me to scrapbooking in journals and since then I keep all kinds of stuff, then save it in boxes or plastic folders, kind of like a time box ? Hubs made our wedding album digital and had it printed at the photo shop, I made an old fashioned one complete with magazine cut outs and lists I kept just for the fun of it… we are still waiting for the “Real” album by the photographer. Also, we are far from finished decorating and getting all the furniture for our new home, but one ongoing project already started is a Wall covered in frames of different sizes and colors with pictures of everyone important, like baby pictures from our parents, or us, to pics with friends, to our grandparents…. in no chronological order or logic, just to honor and remember the people in our lives. And yeah, I have felt very welcome by his family, like I am one of them now (well I am ) and he feels the same way….

    • We have a wall of pictures and it’s my favourite thing. Many of them are silly little things, but they all make me smile.

      But espeically the one of David’s grandfather at 9 years old on a rearing house with a 40s car in the background and little dog at his feet. It’s a tiny little black and white picture that just captures Elmer (an actual cowboy) perfectly. How could you not grin?

  • mimi

    love the pic of you two on the ladder painting! my bf is about to move in and we are going to do some painting projects, so i think i will take a few pics of us painting together. thanks for the inspiration! and congrats!

  • Great post! I’ve always liked looking through my family photo albums too. I created albums for all the big things- like vacations, engagement, pre-wedding festivities, etc. But all the little moments remain files on our computer. & life is found in those little moments!

  • This post reminds me how much I need to create a photo album as well… sure you can look at them on the computer, but it’s not the same as having something in your hands. I always loved looking through family photo albums, and I want our kids to be able to do the same.

  • I kept up with a 365 album for our first year of marriage. I love looking back at it and seeing the little adventures we went on while building our baby family.

    At first I was shy about it — kind of like you. But now, I am so grateful I decided to just do it. My mom is a scrapbooker, so I always felt too amateurish to create anything. And now, I am just grateful for the memories and totally okay with the plastic slip in albums. I just want reminders. :)

    • Oh, I LOVE this idea. I have now written it in Stickies on my computer background — I’m going to make this happen once we get married!

    • Now I’m mad at myself for not thinking of doing a 365 album. What a great idea!

  • I was actually just thinking today about how sad it is that people don’t preserve the little moments in an “able to be held, cherished, laughed and cried over” album so I so happy to hear you are creating your own albums!

    I think sometimes we try to fight the feeling of getting too wrapped up in the wedding so we end up trying to down play it in order to be level headed and calm. You know, the “it’s just one day; it doesn’t change the feelings we share or our relationship” or “it’s just a piece of paper and some cake” argument. Maybe it’s because we’re scared of being disappointed or (unfairly) being labeled a “bridezilla.” Either way, a lot of us do it.

    But to me, weddings change absolutely everything- and it doesn’t matter if it’s court house Tuesday morning ceremony or an all out week long extravaganza. The moment you say “I do” (or I will or what have you) and promise to take on that person as your chosen family, is an extremely ground shifting, take your breath away, thrown confetti in the air, too momentous to put into words- moment. I think it strengthens the love you already shared and brings a new level of serenity to your relationship.

    So on that note, I think it’s wonderful you’re allowing yourself to recognize the importance of what you two are creating together and are truly letting yourself capture the moments and cherish them- even if they are as small* as painting a wall together.

    *but painting a wall isn’t even that small. That wall and that paint choice represents compromise and discussions (maybe that’s just me-as an artist I get very touchy when it comes to paint colors!) as well as building your home and lives together. And that isn’t small at all!

    • I completely agree that sometimes in an effort to show the world that we’re not bridezillas, we sometimes forget that a wedding IS a big deal, and we really should care about it. I think Meg wrote a post on that some time ago, actually!

    • Oh. So beautifully said. YES.

  • Noemi

    I know it’s not visible on these pictures, buuuttt…. I saw your shoes on your blog that you wore for the wedding day, and I have the exact same pair that I will be wearing on my wedding day. In 5 days. It’s outrageous how quickly time has passed! I will definitely keep your post in mind– my family is huge on photo albums, and I plan to carry on the tradition.

    • Aw shoe-twins! And yay for your wedding in 5 DAYS!

  • Hoppy Bunny

    .:: tears up a little ::. that was so so sweet!

  • SarahMama Kate

    I’m kinda glad that an actual album is being discussed & considered in this digital/onscreen age! Because? I really do love browsing back over our 40+ years of pics in those big honkin’ books. Some are of Big Stuff, like weddings, but many are just us being us with friends, siblings and…. along the way, kids. I think the kids get a charge out of seeing their aunts and uncles *back in the day*, too. So, yup, from this lady’s long-term perspective, an album is worth doing and sharing.

    • sarah

      AND albums are totally worth doing from a preservation perspective too! Your printed photographs will last much much longer than digital files which are at risk of loss, corruption, technological obsolescence, etc. So although I get that albums weren’t exactly the point of the post, I’m glad to see families thinking ahead about their precious memories!

  • For me, when people asked me (the questions have died down at > 9 months in), I said, “Eh, not all that different than not-married-life. It is different for everyone else.” For us, we already felt that way. My husband, before he was my husband, was already my emergency contact, my beneficiary, etc. The only reason he wasn’t on my insurance was for financial reasons. (Long story.) The piece of paper just legally cemented our baby family.

    However, it wasn’t just the State recognizing our relationship. Suddenly, other people saw our bond as more legitimate – it started when we were engaged and it only became more pronounced after the deed was done. And, though other people’s opinions don’t directly affect you … they do. They really do. Suddenly, it’s not a battle when I say I’m putting my husband first. If he’s sick as a dog and I have to stay home to take care of him (or vice-versa), it’s expected and appropriate. There’s something validating about this.

    • In fairness, however, growing up an only child, I DID enjoy tagging my husband’s siblings and their spouses on Facebook as “sister” and “brother.” Right after I changed my status to “married,” I tagged them all as family. Silly, I know, but I enjoyed it.

  • I know this post is about more than just photo albums, but that part resonated with me. Last year we used one of the online photo places and printed four albums (engagement shots, wedding, honeymoon, and our busy summer). And I love them. Photos and storytelling with them. I pull them out regularly and flip through them. We printed some copies for my parents for Christmas too.

    I’m also hanging family photos in our hallway. Walking in that part of our house I want to be reminded of our roots and branches.

    It’s all about telling our story and being a part of it.

    • Kez

      Family photos in hallways are the BEST…both sets of grandparents did this and I still occasionally linger on my way back to the living room after a bathroom trip to look at baby photos of extended family, old wedding photos, and random shots that somehow made it there…

  • Ashley, I can’t believe I missed this! Your writing is, as always, eloquent and spot on. Love.

    *Rushes off to buy seventeen empty photo albums*