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Elisabeth: What Worked, And What Didn’t

A final debrief of the urban clambake

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Tonight, we are precisely three months past our wedding. While I do a final edit on this piece, K is shoving sunscreen and Bananagrams and our passports into her suitcase, because tomorrow we leave on our post-wedding tropical getaway. (K found us a house on the border of Panama and Costa Rica that is ten minutes from the beach and backs up onto a sloth preserve, COME ON!) We’re heading to a part of the world neither of us has ever been to, ready to round out a year that has been packed to the very brim and bring in a new one.

It’s taken me three months to be able to write in any coherent way about our legally binding clambake. And I still struggle to articulate the way I felt throughout the weekend, how I was both completely present while feeling like I was hovering above myself, watching the extraordinary go by. (Perhaps the best example of this is how I could recite to you what our priest said during her short, powerful homily, but as soon as we left the church I turned to K and said, “Wait, did we kiss?” K assured me that we did kiss, several times, in fact, with great gusto.) At three months, I have just about enough distance from the event to look back on what we hoped would happen, what didn’t happen, and what we didn’t know would happen. The moment you start telling people you’re getting married, the wedding planning advice starts rolling in, so I’ll try to make this not so much advice as the final debrief about what worked and what didn’t for the two of us.

What did work: Getting ready together

On the morning of our wedding, K woke up before the alarm, like she always does, and I woke up at the Morning Edition theme song. One of us said something like, “Dude, we’re getting married today,” and then we got up and I started padding around in my decrepit fuzzy slippers and K started making coffee and practicing bowties. All in all, a pretty normal morning, except for this one special, lovely weekend surrounding us. We had what felt like hours of time together, reading the paper, getting pretty and handsome, eating scrambled eggs, grinning at each other. It was the perfect way to center ourselves for what was coming next. Originally I planned to get ready with my closest friends, and I do still love that idea, but it would have felt foreign to get ready without K, who weighs in on all my daily outfits and recites the checklist I need to get out the door in the morning. (Anyway, our friends were all booked getting our reception area ready or practicing songs or getting roasted chickens or driving a canoe back to the city.)

What didn’t work: A total lather about hair and makeup

Towards the end of wedding planning, I freaked out about my hair and makeup. I rarely wear anything more than a ponytail and lip gloss and tinted moisturizer, and don’t know how to do much more than that. Because my gender identity is lazy-femme. Which normally is fine, but I started panicking about how we were going to get a batch of amazing photographs and I should look my very best in them. I have a few friends who would have happily done this for me, and who would have been way more excited about it than I was, but they were all already dispatched to set up the reception area. So instead, I didn’t think about it, and didn’t think about it, and then was surprised at how much hair and makeup costs, and everyone was already booked, and then I found a lovely person who was a terrific stylist except we weren’t really a match. What I really wanted was a slightly-gussied-up version of how I always look, and she was accustomed to fancier brides. There was a moment that morning where we actually had to take out the updo and start over. It ultimately worked out fine, but I could have avoided long-term and short-term stress by just practicing (look at this smoky eye!). That, and really believing that the joy I felt that entire day was going to come through in the photos—regardless of how my hair looked.

What did work: disaster preparedness Prep

K, who is a disaster preparedness and response professional, always says that “disaster preparedness begins at home!” (And this is apparently why we have eighty rolls of toilet paper shoved in the hall closet at any given moment.) In disaster response, when you’re planning a complicated rebuilding project like blitz-building five houses in one week with three busfulls of well-meaning, easily distracted college students, it’s good to spend some time talking through worst-case scenarios. What will you do if it rains every day, if two of the job sites aren’t ready and there’s no electricity? She calls this prepwork Fright Night. And we Fright Night-ed the ever-living daylights out of our wedding. We talked through every last scenario (rain, complicated families, slow subway trains, toast drop-outs). This meant that we had more than enough time for, say, an updo redo. Walking through our wedding weekend a hundred times over was totally worth it for the security and peace of mind and complete lack of running around that morning.

What didn’t work: Turning into my own personal Sherpa

As helpful as Fright Night-ing was, however, it also spawned this totally bonkers list of what I brought on my very own person to my very own wedding: hand sanitizer, Colgate Wisps, Epi Pen, Metrocards, emergency migraine medicine, safety pins, mints, two Kind bars, two kinds of Rescue Remedy, ibuprofen, a pantyliner, more mints, an umbrella, a pashmina. At one point, I was seriously considering including a hard-boiled egg for K. Why? I don’t know?? The only thing I can think of is that in the early stages of wedding planning, we looked at a very remote, magical summer camp, where we were going to have to bring in everything, and I somehow forgot that we switched our venue to New York City. Where there is a Duane Reade on every corner. Where, if your button flies off, your priest can just dash across the park to the dry cleaners, who will sew it back on your coat in less than a minute. (True story!) There is no reason to bring a freaking hard-boiled egg with you on your wedding day. Pack light, because there’s going to be at least one if not a dozen people who would be thrilled to carry all of that stuff to the church for you.

What did work: Thinking beyond a white dress

When I was looking for a wedding dress, everyone suggested I try some actual white wedding dresses on, and no one believed me when I said I didn’t want to try any on because I didn’t want to wear white. I thought about it, I really did, and I could just find no part of me that was excited to wear a white wedding dress. I look shitty in white. I look radiant, however, in navy blue, and after several shopping editions, came home to a gigantic Modcloth order, and the last dress of the bunch was my navy, vaguely nautical, swirly, floaty, vintage-ish, affordable cocktail dress that beamed back at me and said, “I am what you should wear to an afternoon urban clambake.” I loved it from the moment I put it on. I loved it the entire day. I loved that a few weeks later, a friend of mine bought it to wear as a bridesmaid in another wedding. That dress will look perfect on everyone. May the love continue.

What didn’t work: Forgetting to take any intentional pictures with friends

K and I worked hard to create a celebration that was as much about friends as about family (especially K, because she has a very small family), which is why we were both so disappointed when we realized that we hadn’t made posed shots with friends a priority in the way that we’d done with family pictures. We had a short, harried, pre-wedding photo session with our families, and it would have been so easy to ask our friends to participate (they were already there). And probably more fun. There’s some wonderful candids, but it would be so nice to have posed shots.

What did work: Making Time For Toasts

One of the best moments of our wedding was hearing our friends and family lovingly roast us. K’s people talked about her loving pushiness and mine talked about my steamrolling enthusiasm, and many people talked about how glad they were to see this match. And I felt so seen, so witnessed by their words. There is something very powerful about hearing your people publicly honor you.

What did work: Postponing The Getaway

So as I mentioned, we are three months past the wedding now. And only now are we getting away for any extended time off. As it turns out, I am so glad for the pause between celebrations (even though initially it was because of work schedules). Right after the wedding, we found a ridiculously cheap little red upstate farmhouse off airbnb, and sat around for a few days just telling each other how much fun we’d had, seeing movies in the little town cinema in the middle of the day, and sampling farm stands. It was the perfect, low-key, quiet time we needed. I wasn’t in the right mindset to head off for a longer trip. I needed sleep and about a hundred hours of blankly staring out at the meadows to start processing what we’d just experienced, and a tropical beach would have been wasted on us.

Tomorrow, though, I plan to appreciate every last grain of sand.

Photo by Elizabeth Leitzell

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