The Devil Is (Not) In The Details


Most people don’t know this, but I have a tattoo. It’s a pretty sizable one, on my back, in the shape of wings. I got it with my mother shortly after I turned twenty-one as a way to commemorate my late sister and the things my mom and I have had overcome in our relationship. I love my tattoo. It makes me feel like a badass, and once upon a time it was shaded with the colors of the rainbow (it’s a little faded these days).

I had been planning on getting a tattoo for years, so when the decision was finally made and plans were being planned, the act of getting a tattoo somehow managed to work itself into becoming something of a symbol to me. It was going to be ultimate bonding moment between my mother and me. I would have her full attention for a whole day, away from my siblings; together, as we inked our bodies in solidarity, we would break down any walls that had built up between us over the years. On this one momentous occasion, everything would be perfect. If only for a moment.

But of course, the reality of the situation was that my mother and I were going to be doing an activity together, and no matter how important, the complications of daily life were going to work their way in. I had one idea for a tattoo artist, my mom had a recommendation from a friend she wanted to check out. My dad had made the mistake of telling my younger sister that day that we were going to have to put our dog down, and she ended up calling my mom repeatedly during our bonding moment, interrupting our one-on-one time. It was still an amazing experience, but when I left, something felt off. I hadn’t gotten my perfect moment. I wanted the kind of story that you could tell to future generations, one that was unmarred by imperfections. Not to mention, this moment was literally going to follow me around forever. How could I look at a permanent marking on my body and not remember everything that went wrong?

What’s funny is, I know the tattoo itself isn’t perfect. I never expected it to be. The lines are a little rough and tattoo artist was decent, but not phenomenal and now the shading is faded so you can no longer see the rainbow. And still, I feel no guilt about the physical properties of my ink. Actually, I love every single thing about it. So why do I feel bad about the moment in which it was created?

The answer is that I do this to myself all the time. I’m always chasing after the perfect memory. When Michael and I got married, I was adamant that I did not care about the details. We’ll decorate however! Wear what you want! I don’t care about anything, as long as everyone has a good time!

But that was the problem, right there: as long as everyone has a good time. You see, I thought that if I was a good girl, and didn’t care about the details, and lowered my expectations enough, then I could achieve the impossible and have the perfect wedding.

I told myself that by sparing myself the headache of caring about tangible artifacts, I was focusing on what really mattered: our people. But what I left out of this fantasy narrative of mine was the key ingredient in my plan: the people. You see, somewhere in my WIC-averse brain, I’d convinced myself that by eschewing all of the traditional wedding details, I would be rewarded with a wedding that featured nothing but smiling faces. I mean, I’d seen enough Bridezillas to know how weddings go bad. I knew that the reason other people had horrible weddings was because they were simply doing it wrong. They were pouring their energy into things like shoes and cake flavors, and therefore were missing out on what was really important! And I’d cracked the code.

So I lowered my expectations. I didn’t worry about the details. I poured my heart into putting together a wedding that would yield me the elusive perfect moment.

And of course, I was all wrong. Because what I’d done was I’d tried to control the one thing about a wedding that I had no power over: the people.

Now don’t get me wrong, I had a lovely wedding. It is one of the most joyous events of my life to date. But still, things went wrong. One of our groomsmen had to back out of the wedding at the last minute to take care of his ailing father. Important family members weren’t getting along. Emotions ran high. Fights were had.

By the time the day rolled around, I felt conflicted. Where was my unabashed happy high? I felt like I hadn’t asked for much, and still the universe had failed to deliver. I thought I had made a relatively unselfish request in hoping that everyone would be happy and getting along and having a good time, and I didn’t understand why I couldn’t just have that on this one day.

But the reality is, what I’d asked for was unfair. I hadn’t lowered the bar at all. In fact, I’d asked for so much more than a pretty wedding with carefully constructed details. What I’d asked for was a perfect life.

You see, I think the reason I keep chasing down perfect moments is because I want these big events in my life to be the representative of who I am. Isn’t that what we’re taught? The wedding itself is supposed to be the moment that ushers us into the future. If that moment is marked with family quarrels and complicated feelings, what does that mean for the rest of our lives together?

What I’ve learned since getting married is that big moments are indicators of the future, but not in the ways that I imagined. I used to think that if I couldn’t pull things together for one damn day, nothing would ever be good in my life. But I was missing the point. The reality is that I never had a perfect life, and I don’t have a perfect family, and frankly it’s a rare occasion that I am afforded a perfect moment. And yet, here I am. So maybe I didn’t need to pull it together after all. Maybe I was doing just fine without perfection. Our wedding day was full flaws, and yet we still got married. The imperfections didn’t stop the magic from happening. And three years later, after countless setbacks, challenges, and the imperfections of daily life, we’re still happy.

I used to think that my wedding would be like my tattoo. If I was going to be stuck with it forever, I wanted at the very least for it to have a good origin story so that I could reflect back on it fondly. But the thing is, I have always had control over my own story. Perfection was always in my control, because I set the standard for what that meant. And since I was the only one gauging it against my own standards, I was the only one who knew if things went wrong. Now I realize that my wedding is exactly like my tattoo. The result is permanent, but the origin is just a narrative that I can tell however I see fit. There are parts of it that I tell over and over again, and there are details that I led fade into the background. Over time, my story has become what I always wanted it to be. In a few years time, maybe I’ll touch it up again and it’ll be a whole different story. But in the meantime, I’ll worry less about where it came from and more about where I’m going with it. And that will be just perfect for now.

An imperfect photo, which I love nonetheless, by: Eve Event Photography

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  • Brilliant. Spot on. Thank you for the reminder (relevant beyond weddings, of course).

  • Contessa

    Holy Jumping Shitballs – I’ve been saying the same thing for 6 months, “I don’t care what happens as long as everyone has fun” and thinking the same as you, that it would guarantee a great memory because I wasn’t asking for that much. I just had a panic attack at my desk. I have three days to readjust my thinking, but I’m glad for the reminder nonetheless Maddie!

    • Paranoid Libra

      An exactly just wasn’t enough for it….it’s just too much exactly in your comment to not also comment.

      Ahhh, Congrats wedding day sister!

    • Granola

      Me too!!! That line between caring about absurd things that don’t matter and creating more of a pain with a cultivated “I don’t care” is fine indeed.

      Time for some thinking about how and what I actually care about. No great party comes out of thin air. It was constructed by someone who cared.

      • Contessa

        I just realized that I could conceivably try so hard to not care that I feel about about myself for realizing I *did* care. Why does that feel like highschool popularity to me?

    • Megan (from Nova Scotia)

      notice you qualified that with ‘as long as everyone has fun’? Which means you still have put effort into planning something people would enjoy. It will be wonderful, because it is your wedding! Now, stop that panic attack ;)

  • Amazing. Thank you. I needed to hear this today. <3

  • Paranoid Libra

    An awesome reminder for me as I prepare for my wedding this weekend. I just had my sister ask me which flavor of the cake do I want to cut into for the cake cutting ceremony:
    “I don’t care”
    “it’s your wedding, you get to care”
    “all I care is that i have a yummy cake and since my wonderful sister is making it I know it will be”

    I feel like this stemmed from my sister and mother both feeling like I haven’t cared enough about my own wedding when in reality I do have things I care about, but I think it’s definitely on a different level than WIC. I just want whatever I eat to be tasty, everyone to have a seat (current stress out right now as last minute changes happen of course) and for there to be enough drinks(booze and non booze alike).

    I think it’s all about usually not caring about the minute detail of that detail that the WIC focuses on. Yea you can care about what your center piece looks like, but if you are getting stressed out that a few flowers are in slightly different angles than the vision in your head, then maybe you’ve taken that detail tooo far (unless its your version of needing to worry about the artichokes since well you can’t control the fact that you had an outdoor ceremony and currently the weather is calling for a hurricane).

    I am just going to make sure I embrace any moments that come my way this weekend and remind myself my life isn’t perfect so if anyone has any freak outs it’s ok (it might even turn into a good story down the road).

    • Contessa

      Don’t even talk to me about seats.

    • ElisabethJoanne

      Also, depending on the personal dynamics, a lot of “letting people love you” and “letting people give you things to show their love” (from yesterday) can be making decisions. I may not care about flowers. My mother and sisters may not care about flowers. But if we’re having flowers, someone has to decide WHAT flowers. No one likes to make decisions in my family. But, it’s my wedding. I get to (or have to – all depends on your perspective) care. We are repeating this with every aesthetic decision, and I am slowly learning to say, “If you have opinions on what dress you wear/what flowers you carry/what we eat, let me know by X. If not, I’ll decide.”

  • Love this perspective.
    My partner and I have an awesome thing we discovered — we call it “Perfect Experience”. It’s just so SO easy to get into the cycle of
    “Oooh, this place would be really nice in the autumn”
    “Does that mean you don’t like it now???”
    “I would love this dinner with a Pinot Noir”
    “Does that mean you hate the wine I got??”
    “This band would be so good at a smaller venue.”
    “Does that mean you’re not having fun here??

    And of course it doesn’t, but we’re always doing this to ourselves. Trying to create, or even just talking about, creating the Perfect Experience. And making everyone feel all *off* in the process. So now the conversation goes

    “Wow, this late would be beautiful at sunset.”
    “*snort* um, Perfect Experience?”
    “ha! Yes. it’s really beautiful now. I love it”

    It’s proven incredibly useful.

    • Jashshea

      Best idea ever. I find myself doing that on vacation ALL THE TIME – “oh this place that I’ll see once in my life would be so much better if it were fall/raining/a tuesday.”

      And the best times on vacation (or in regular life) are when you forget that there could be other experiences other than the one you’re having at that moment. That’s hard to do, so I love the idea of calling yourself out for trying to create a movie scene out of real life.

    • meg

      Elizabeth Gilbert talks about a friend who processes ACTUAL perfect experiences by freaking out and saying, “OH MY GOD I MISS THIS PLACE” while she’s actually there, and it’s actually happening. Hilarious, but I realized I do it too. I did it in Italy, “I miss this! When will we come back? Is it once in a lifetime?” Which is absurd. And important to remember at a wedding. At my wedding I was VERY present, so instead what I kept saying is, “This is my wedding. I’m getting married right now! This is a great party!”

      • itsy.bitsy

        I just laughed out loud at the “OH MY GOD I MISS THIS PLACE” thing…

        … And then I realized I do that all. the. time. Which made me laugh at myself harder than I was laughing before. APW FTW.

  • I’ve also had the same mantra “I don’t care as long as everyone has fun”, and this article was a pretty good reality check. Theres no way to control other people, and theres no formula for happiness. No combination of anything will create joy in 100% of people. Heck, even if I went all Oprah on my wedding guests (“look under your pews, theres keys to your NEW CAR!!!”) someone would really prefer taking public transit, or riding their bike to work.

    Really asking for “as long as everyone is happy” is asking for the impossible. Maybe you can hope that everyone has the tact to hide they’re not having fun.

    So many of life’s experiences are what you choose to make of them. Let yourself have fun. Let other people worry about themselves.

    • Alexis

      “So many of life’s experiences are what you choose to make of them. Let yourself have fun. Let other people worry about themselves.”

      So true. That last part is so hard though!

      In addition to worrying a lot about whether our guests will have fun at our wedding, I also spend far too much worrying about what the weather will be like… silly.

      Also, hooray Eve Event!!!

    • Megan (from Nova Scotia)

      Since starting the planning, I’ve tried to make that my attitude- let other people worry about themselves. I’m not going to worry about making it an awesomesauce party for everyone, because my idea of a great ‘party’ is likely different. If they walk away without regretting they came, and thinking it was a lovely, charming wedding, than I will consider it a job well done.

      This may be a little controversial, I’m not sure, and I hope this doesn’t result in my hijacking the thread but: I really don’t think weddings are for entertainment. They are a celebration to be sure, but I think the idea that every couple needs to agonize over keeping guests entertained is a little over the top. That being said, if you want to have a carnival theme, or a throw-down dance party, or whatever, I’m sure almost everyone will still sincerely say that it was a lovely wedding :) I would, but I just love any sort of wedding!

      • ElisabethJoanne

        I don’t think your idea is controversial in these parts, but I think it’s “wrong” if you talk to the WIC. On APW, we talk about how “Your wedding is not a show” and “Your wedding is not an imposition.”

        We are having a very traditional wedding. That is, it will follow the structure of my parents’ wedding and lots of aspects of my grandparents’ weddings and of 90% of the weddings I’ve attended in the last 20 years. If I were planning my own party to celebrate a less community-oriented event, like a new job or something, I would plan a very different party than what our wedding reception will be. If our guests described their ideal party, it would probably also be very different, both from my ideal party and from our wedding reception plans.

        But a wedding is not just a party. It’s a rite of passage. My future husband and myself see it as a religious, communal, and legal rite of passage. It’s a different kind of enjoyment, a more intellectual and spiritual enjoyment, but I think everyone will enjoy our wedding, even if they don’t have what’s usually thought of as “fun.”

      • meg

        Weddings are NOT for entertainment.

        (Though, interestingly, I’ve said to people before, “If everyone would focus a little less on making the wedding reception pretty and proper and more on letting it be fun and enjoyable, that would be a very good thing.” But, letting it be fun does not mean making it a show, or focusing on other people HAVING fun, something you can’t control. Just setting an intention for enjoyment, which weirdly, is almost totally lacking in mainstream wedding media.)

        So, two thoughts at once there.

        • Megan (from Nova Scotia)

          I think you hit on it with “letting it be fun”!

        • Robin

          I think there’s a small but important distinction between “celebration” and “entertainment”!

          A wedding is always going to be, in part, a celebration. Which is good and delightful and powerful and moving!

          • meg

            I think there is a LARGE but important distinction, actually. And somehow we’ve all gotten confused and think weddings are about entertainment. I mean, the ceremony is usually important ritual, but the rest should be pure celebration.

      • KEA1

        If I ever get married, I flat-out refuse to have my wedding treated as entertainment. You want entertainment, go watch a {expletive}ing movie.

  • “But the reality is, what I’d asked for was unfair. I hadn’t lowered the bar at all. In fact, I’d asked for so much more than a pretty wedding with carefully constructed details. What I’d asked for was a perfect life.”

    UGH. That shit HURTS, Maddie!

    Because I have pretty much been doing exactly that for the last 12 months of our engagement. I planned to completely subvert all the misery and chaos by deliberately not caring about anything but the people and the EXPERIENCE. Which, hello, I cannot control.

    It’s so deflating to think that while all this time I had assumed I was being undemanding, I was actually making the most extravagant demands of all.

    So wise, though, to point out that what we can control are our perceptions. Must get to work on that asap.

  • Gigi59

    SO much wisdom here!!!! Maddie: How did you get so smart?

  • Sigh. But I WANT everyone to be happy!!!
    I know.
    I’m totally doing this. Right now.
    I’m sure I was doing it in the moments you were writing.

    I want my parents to dance. I want my dad to groove on the dance floor with his wife and my mom to jam out with her husband, and I want neither of them to care that the other is there, to let that inhibit them in any way.

    I don’t want anyone to be cranky about their lodging or think the food isn’t delicious.

    We’re doing a whole weekend at a summer camp – hurray!, right? Except so many expectations. So many hours to be feeling in charge of whether everyone is blissfully happy.

    I should probably read this post once a day until then. Maybe it’ll seep in.

    • It’s totally okay to want people to be happy at your wedding! I don’t think Maddie is saying not to do that, just saying not to build the entire foundation of your own wedding happiness and how you’ll see and remember the day on it, right?

      • meg

        Yes. Wanting people to be happy is good. But on the day of, you really have to focus of the fact that you are only in charge of yourself, and let everyone be however they’re going to be. I think, at least. Otherwise, you’ll pull yourself WAY outside of your own experience, and spend the day worrying about shit you have ZERO control over.

    • Lauren

      A week at a summer camp?! This is my dream. I’m currently looking renting a house for a week for family and friends to stay, hang out, play, etc. but a camp would be even better. Can I ask where it is? And how you went about doing that?

  • Another Meg

    Is this an artichokes moment?

    • Paranoid Libra

      I think its a not focusing on the artichokes enough moment. We are trying to focus too much on something we truly can’t control without realizing it instead of putting the focus on something we might have a shot of controlling. It’s like worrying about the weather and trying to will it to be sunny and 75 outside and not worrying at all about any form of an oh shit back up plan of well if it down pours we’ll move the ceremony to there for cover.

      • Another Meg

        Exactly! Artichokes, I can control. How my guests feel the day of the wedding, I cannot. They are like the weather. Sometimes unpredictable, and always acting of their own accord.

        • meg

          Guests ARE like the weather.

          • Replace ‘guests’ with ‘other people’ and you have an important life lesson.

  • Oh. Lightbulb moment.

  • Mmouse

    This is such an excellent message. I talked about this a lot with my therapist a while back – perception is the most powerful tool we have for happiness. There is So Much we cannot control, especially the actions and emotions of people around us. Practicing being present in the moment (taking in good and bad parts and feeling okay with both of them), taking time to look back and process events in a positive framework (like Maddie talks about), and being conscious of the choice to be content with events – all of these things are tricky, but have helped me personally be the happier, calmer person I want to be.
    I think when planning something like a wedding (or my current life event, having a baby in a few months) it is so hard to not try to convince ourselves that if just this one thing goes right everything will be great (like when I say, as long as I deliver a healthy baby I’ll be happy. I can’t really control if the baby will be 100% healthy!). It’s good to remember this message in times leading up to an event, but even more helpful to go back after something is over and consider how it really was what you were hoping for (or not, but that can be okay too).

  • Wow! This hits home. Why do you think we do this to ourselves!? Control the artichokes, the centerpieces? yes. Control the wonderfulness of your and your guests’ experience? not a chance! But we keep trying. Maybe it’s because the feeling, the experience is what really matters when the flowers are faded and the artichokes gone. Duh. I am a particular fan of selective memory — I conveniently forget or filter out the crap and remember the good stuff. It works beautifully! ;-)

    • Maddie

      You know, I think for me it’s because messed up centerpieces wouldn’t have been a big deal on our wedding day, but if I can feel that someone else is not having a good time, it’s a complete distraction for me. So I thought if I could just make sure that everyone was having a good time, then I would also have a good time. And it’s taken me a long time (read: I wasn’t totally successful at this during my own wedding) to realize that it’s not. my. responsibility. to make other people happy. All I can do to ensure my happiness is to do just that…be happy. And that’ll never happen if I feel like it’s my job to make everyone else around me happy too.

      Also, YES for selective memory. It is the best invention EVAR.

      • Ake

        Maddie, I completely have this thing – “if I can feel that someone else is not having a good time, it’s a complete distraction for me.” It’s actually VERY unhelpful, because in any given moment I could easily be running around trying to please everyone, just so that everything is ‘in order’ and ‘safe’ and I can relax and be myself. It’s hard to explain to others (read: my husband), and even to myself. So, my question is, have you managed to get to a point where in general everyday life you can feel happy even when others around you are not feeling happy, or perhaps even not feeling happy at you (! argh, the worst !) and still pick up on it, and just not let it ruin your happiness? If so, HOW?!
        Reassuring to know it’s not just me, anyway.

      • Ake

        P.S. FANTASTIC post. Seriously.

        • Maddie

          Aw, thanks! You know, my mom said something to me recently that really hit home. She told me, “You are not responsible for anyone else. If someone else is going to do something, they are going to do it because they want to, not because you wanted them to.” It was like a weight had been lifted. We have a tendency to think that things will fall apart without us there to hold them up, but I’ve recently found that this is a misconception (likely stemming from my chaotic childhood).

          I recently had an experience where I found myself in a similar situation. It was the night before a big day and I found myself with 6 people in my house, all of whom I assumed needed my attention. I started to freak out because I really needed some alone time and there were ALL. THESE. PEOPLE. AROUND. So you know what I did? I went in the other room and took a time out. Guess what? They were fine without me.

          Sometimes it’s about letting go and allowing other people ownership over their actions. No matter how much we feel like we are in control, at the end of the day, people are going to do what they are going to do and we’ll drive ourselves mad trying to stop them.

  • daynya

    Uh, yeah. Total epiphany on this one! I have been saying the same thing to myself throughout planning. I don’t care what we eat, as long as we all have a great time. Duh, I have NO way to control that. Thanks for the reality check, and the inspiration. It is my story to tell, and I can frame it however I want, even if it’s through my favorite rose-tinted glasses! :)

  • My first gut reaction to this is along the lines of “D*mn it. What CAN I care about?”

    Thinking a little further, though, what I’m trying to take away is that it’s ok to care about anything and everything that matters to me regarding the wedding itself, as long as I’m not relying on things working out exactly as I want in order to enjoy my experience. It’d be great if everyone has a million miles of fun, and the details I care about all work out, and the weather co-operates etc, but if all those things don’t happen the way I want it’ll still be ok, too.

    • Maddie


      I mean, listen. I *cared* about some of the details. I made our invitations, decorated our venue space, fretted over my hair. But when the invitations kind of looked like they were homemade and the runners didn’t get painted in time, I was OK. On the other hand, when I got into a big ol’ fight with my mom a few days before the wedding, I almost let it ruin things for me. I think you hit the nail on the head between caring about things, but not letting your happiness rest on those things.

    • meg

      You can CARE about everything. Or anything. But you can’t CONTROL it. So on your wedding day, I think you have to realize that all you’re in charge of and responsible for is you, and how you choose to react to whatever happens.

  • blimunda

    I’m not planning a wedding, but I wanted to tell you that I also had wings tattooed (on my heel) to commemorate a special period of my life. I didn’t plan to have it done that day (went to book an appointment, “wanna do it now?”, done). The tattoo itself is not perfect, and I love it as it is anyway. It means what it’s meant to, even if I don’t constantly think about it, and reminds me that sometimes things happen in spite of me and it’s just the universe telling me that imperfection can actually be a good option (I see that a lot around me).

  • It’s so true that you can’t control the people.

    I think maybe it’s important to remember that weddings bring up a ton of very emotional stuff for the people who are NOT getting married!

    As a 30 year old single woman, going to my friends’ weddings is wonderful, but also very tough. It puts me through a wringer.

    • meg

      Yes. This. Weddings are often about our own stuff, as guests. And it’s not anyone else’s job to try to control that….

  • Kelly D.

    After an intensely, drawn out, painful, miscommunicating disagreement with my fiancé last night seeping into the morning), I can’t tell you how eye-opening it was to read this today.

    I’ve been reluctant to find joy in our upcoming wedding, going so far as to not wanting the wedding itself using all the reasons whyI already know it WILL NOT BE PERFECT to support my stance. I wanted to elope as a way of trying to create a drama-free, pain-free, once-in-a-lifetime perfect moment of uninterrupted & untarnished happiness in our lives to bring us through all the hard stuff we’re bound to face in our marriage. But until I read this, I had no idea that THAT is what was driving me.

    Thank you for offering your experiences & sharing your really, über-important life lesson.

  • Well, this definitely hit the nail on the head for me today.

    With three days to go, I just found out that my best friend won’t be able to make it to the wedding. So much for not caring about the details.

    Also, congrats to all the couples getting married this weekend!

    • Hang in there. This happened to me too.

      I don’t really know the situation, but if the circumstances allow for it, maybe try to arrange a phone or video chat on the day of, if possible? Or you could record the ceremony to share with your best friend later (or even live through the web). We didn’t do that (though I still wish I had), but we got together later for a specific visit to share the experience through photos.

      You might find yourself with some mixed emotions. I remember thinking, “How can I do this without my best friend here???” And it was hard, but it was okay too. The wedding was still joyous. We are capable of holding and experiencing many different emotions at once. I am still sad that we didn’t get to share that day, but in the grand scheme, we did share it is best we could, given the circumstances we had.

      I wish you an amazing, fun wedding where you feel loved from those there and those far away, and I wish you the ability to accept how you feel, whatever that is, and know that it is okay. :)

  • Lturtle

    Maddie, sometimes I think you are the best friend I haven’t met yet. You keep saying the hard things I need to hear.

    17days out from the wedding (ack!) and I really do need to focus more on the things I can control. I had been saying the same “I don’t care” mantra for months until I realized it was actually putting more stress on the people who are helping me put this wedding together. They really wanted to do things “my way”, whatever that might mean. They want to make me happy, and they don’t want to be burdened with making a potentially “wrong”decision. That realization helped me to focus more on my metaphorical artichokes, but I see now that I hadn’t given up the idea that everybody being there and being happy was the important thing. Well, not everyone can be there. And maybe they won’t be happy, and all I can do is try to make sure I am happy and there is plenty of food and drink.

    Plus I think that now I need real artichokes at the wedding, to remind me to relax about the other stuff. :)

    • “I had been saying the same “I don’t care” mantra for months until I realized it was actually putting more stress on the people who are helping me put this wedding together. They really wanted to do things “my way”, whatever that might mean. They want to make me happy, and they don’t want to be burdened with making a potentially “wrong”decision.”

      This, exactly. I remember really feeling the *pressure* to have an “I don’t care” attitude when we were engaged (I think a lot of practical women feel this way, like we’re scared we lose our strong and independent street cred if we, God forbid, have an opinion about our weddings) and then finally coming to the realization that wait a minute, if I keep saying I don’t care about our wedding (when I actually did), how in the world could I expect anyone else to give a damn about it?

      Or, as I tell my couples whose weddings I’ve stage-managed — you don’t have to have an ideal or a vision or a dream, but if other people are helping with your wedding, you *do* need to have an opinion!

    • Raven

      I second Lturtle in that Maddie, sometimes it feels like you are the best friend I haven’t met yet. Your insightfulness and narrative just amaze me!
      I’ve noticed that often on the so-called big moments in my life I usually feel less happy than I do on run of the mill, ordinary days. I think the problem is that I believe that these moments need to be epic, perfect, and memorable for only the right reasons. And nothing can live up to what I think it should be. The Silversun Pickups sum it up well with:
      “I’ve been waiting for this moment all my life
      But it’s not quite right.”
      Even when a big day goes well, I often still come away feeling like I’m missing something. And if that doesn’t eat away at me, the fact that I can’t be only joyfully happy on a special day that went pretty well makes me question what is wrong with me. It doesn’t help that I feel a perpetual need to make everyone happy. At some point when I was a kid, I internalized that the worst sin I could make is doing something that would cause unhappiness to another, when what I needed to realize was that I am not responsible for anyone else’s happiness. Yet after mentioning to his aunt that I like red wedding dresses and having her tell me that red is a whore’s color and I’d be giving the middle finger to all the guests if I wore a red dress, and then having my own mother tell me that if I wear a white dress she’ll be disappointed in me, I stopped looking forward to the wedding for a while. So I really appreciate the reminder that imperfections don’t stop the magic from happening. It gives me strength to work on my own narrative of the day. Thank you for sharing! (I also love the comparison since I’ve been strongly considering getting my first tattoo this summer!)

  • Megan (from Nova Scotia)

    Reading this, and the comments, has helped me realize that (while I’m not taking the same attitude/approach that Maddie took) it is totally ok to care about wedding details. I don’t have to pretend total disinterest in food presentation, or other details, as long as they don’t become everything. I have also decided to not agonize over the idea of people having a great time or not-a wedding is not an imposition, people want to celebrate with you even if it won’t be their favorite sort of party.

    • meg

      Totally. I cared a ton about a lot of things. Often that was a really good thing. I really needed to care about my dress, for example. Not because it would make the dress perfect, but because I needed to learn something. And weirdly, the dress was sort of imperfectly perfect after all that.

  • Grover Clevelanne

    This post really resonates with me right now. I’ve been saying “as long as everyone has fun!” as the answer when questioned about any sort of detail regarding our wedding. For me, this is my response to feeling like my wedding is an imposition. If everyone has fun, it’s not an imposition, but if a guest isn’t having fun, that person is questioning why they committed the time and energy to come to our wedding.

    Which isn’t true – our guests will be at our wedding because they want to celebrate with us. Maybe I need to up my reading of the post “Your wedding is not an imposition” to two times a day. And own the decisions I do make for the wedding. And keep breathing.

  • Ginna

    Maddie your last post about gaining weight during difficult times completely changed the way I view my body, allowing me to now see it with gratitude, pride, acceptance and nurturance. Ok that last one might not be a real word. Now with this post you have given me so many new questions to ask myself about my quest for ideal situations and “perfect” memories, and my part in changing those expectations and how I deal with them. You are such a gifted writer – I can’t wait to see what you delve into next!

  • KatieBeth

    “You see, I thought that if I was a good girl, and didn’t care about the details, and lowered my expectations enough, then I could achieve the impossible and have the perfect wedding.”

    This sentence totally makes me want to put my head down and cry at my desk – in a therapeutic-release, oh-my-God-someone-has-felt-this-too way, though. I’ve just started planning a wedding and ALREADY I am overwhelmed by the impact of not caring, yet still kind of caring.

    For example, I said to God and everyone, “I don’t care where we get married, I’ll get married in an alley in a turnip sack if I have to, etc.” I’ve had people tell me, “You guys need to figure out what YOU want, just do what makes YOU happy.” THEN I make a suggestion, like having it at a park instead of a hotel, and the other person says, “Oh. Really? Are you guys ‘park people’?” Uhh, I don’t know, actually. Or I suggest having BBQ instead of salmon – and it’s “Oh. Really? You want to do that?” But you know what – I don’t care about the BBQ. I care about THE OTHER PERSON CARING ABOUT THE BBQ.

    That and how much that *&$%-ing salmon is going to cost me. Stupid fish.

    • ElisabethJoanne

      I think a lot of grooms are like this for every wedding decision.

      Example: It’s hard for me to imagine that my future husband cares as much about the flowers as I do. I’m named after a flower, and my sister is named after another. [My APW name is unrelated to my real name.] But he certainly has ideas about flowers. He can say what he likes in general and what he thoroughly doesn’t like. In everyday life, he could casually just say, “This is cool” and “That’s ugly.” But, he’s getting married. He actually has a ton of money to spend on flowers. So, he has to make a decision. He can’t be casual about it. He has to care a lot. By “a lot” we mean “enough to make a decision.”

      But, there’s this disjunct in how much he cares and the amount of money and emotional weight involved. In everyday life, we don’t spend so much money on something we have such weak opinions about. In everyday life, there are no “bridezilla” and “groomzilla” and “happiest time in your life” cultural narratives.

      So, we make decisions under this strange disjointed stress, and it can turn what would otherwise be fun stuff [I used to spend hours looking at flower catalogs as a girl.] into un-fun stuff after awhile.

      [Yes, I’d totally just decide on the centerpieces already if he didn’t want to continue having input, despite his frustrations.]

  • Emme

    This was just amazing! What a great read!

  • Holy shit. Maddie, this post made me realize that this is why I’m having such a hard time processing our wedding (and thus writing a grad post…). I decided to “not care” so it wouldn’t be stressful and nothing would be disappointing. So I kind of checked out on some things that normally I would have been on top of and all over and making sure they were done. And since I *didn’t* do that, they didn’t get done. And instead of not being disappointed because I had lowered my expectations, I’m irritated because it didn’t happen, and mad at myself because I *could* have made it happen.

    So now I just have to work on letting go of those things….le sigh.

  • Oh man, a few days ago I submitted a Wedding Undergrad post that’s a very similar theme – about how trying to follow the APW “Rules” and be the opposite of a WIC-crazy bride doesn’t work either. (Only mine was about having mismatching bridesmaid dresses). I definitely think this is something that needs to be discussed on here!

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  • Suzanna

    Mind. Blown.

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  • Mary Jane

    Maddie, I love this post and relate to it so much! You’re a fabulous writer and a wise woman!

  • Yep.

    Just that. Yep.

    And in my wizened age (har, har), I find that this was and is more predominant in my life than just at our wedding. I realize that now. It’s a hard thing to give up.

  • Anon

    “And of course, I was all wrong. Because what I’d done was I’d tried to control the one thing about a wedding that I had no power over: the people.”

    I am the kind of gal who typically does the same thing… I assume that if I work hard enough, I will make it work the way I want to between the people I love. I am just starting planning. I think this is all going to be a big exercise in what I can control and what I can’t, and appreciating what is there, and letting go of what’s not. As it turns out there’s a lot of good stuff there, even if it’s not everything I want!
    Thank you :-)