Anna & Tim

*Anna, Public Servant & Tim, Musician*

I don’t feel any different now than before my wedding. I don’t mean that in a negative way, just that perhaps we had already been through enough upheavals to feel thoroughly committed. The wedding day rushed past, and suddenly it was ceremony time. I surprised myself and everyone else by nearly crying in my vows, and I had to use my “public speaking voice” to get through the rest. We forgot certain photos, danced and danced, and discovered why the bridal couple usually leaves before the rest of the guests. We still refuse to add up the final cost, but thanks to two generous sets of parents and some fairly focused saving, we didn’t need to cut into our reserves. I can honestly say my wedding was one of the most awesome weekends I have ever experienced. But I don’t feel any different to when we were unmarried, and I’m not sure whether this pleases or worries me.

I never thought I’d marry. I was quite happy on my own, romantically speaking. I had an awesome family. I flatted with great friends. I loved my work and university. I travelled alone for months at a time, even in countries where I scarcely understood the language. I no longer felt responsible for anyone else’s happiness, and the freedom was intoxicating.

And then, just when I’d told all and sundry that I wasn’t even thinking about any romantic involvement until after I’d finished my PhD, I joined a new brass band and sat next to a rather fine looking horn player. Shook with nerves when I asked whether he would like to see a movie. Moved in together when his army posting was earlier than expected. Left family, friends, job and uni to follow him to another city. We became servants to a pair of felines. And finally, after a rather boozy day at the races, I asked him if he wanted to “get hitched”. I meant every word of it. The following day, I rang his mum to ask for permission, made him a keyring, and got down on one knee to do it “properly”. And realized I’d have to make my peace with marriage.

You see, I didn’t think I’d never marry just because I was extremely fond of my independence. I was actively opposed to the institution. All those links to women as property rubbed me the wrong way. The fact that a significant portion of the population is denied the right to legally marry enraged me, and it still does. The thought of spending so much on a single day went completely against the way I thought about money. The societal expectations that marriage is what you do at a certain point in the relationship made me want to buck the trend. I’m still not sure what changed, or how, or when.

I never planned my wedding as a child (though apparently I told my mum that if I ever wed, I’d wear red). For a while I insisted we should have gone to Vegas, since we could have flown ourselves and our families over for what we were spending on this shindig. I was working full time, trying to finish my PhD, and planning a wedding. In tears and despair I’m sure I said things that hurt Tim, and probably other family and friends as well. I swung wildly from conceptualizing our wedding as a party at which we got married, or a ceremony followed by a party. In the end, what helped was dividing the two. We could craft a ceremony that represented who we were at the time of our wedding, our hopes for our future, promises we wanted to keep. And then we could throw a massive boozy party, for which I could craft like a wild thing.

I thought I’d rejected all the cultural baggage around marriage and gender roles, yet still managed to assume that Tim wouldn’t feel strongly about the wedding details. It turns out he did, very much, including having our reception on a Saturday night, with a proper cake to cut, and my carrying a bouquet for the ceremony. I resisted, especially since I was beginning to lose track of whether I was opposed to various traditions because I genuinely didn’t like them, or just to be contrary. Having said that, there were certain traditions that were never going to make it into the wedding, no matter what. (Being given away! Garter toss! You may now kiss the bride!) In the end, holding our wedding on a Saturday night meant people could join us for the whole weekend. My cousin baked and iced my cake, and I made the topper, my bouquet, and hundreds more kusudama flowers to decorate the reception. Guests took every single one home.

I chose a coloured dress so I could wear it repeatedly in the future, as well as because it is one of the most amazing pieces of clothing I have ever worn, and teamed it with my favourite pair of Doc Martens boots. We got ready together the morning of the wedding, because why would we spend such a significant night apart (and wow, did this decision cause more raised eyebrows than just about everything else put together!). We had no spousal parties, not wanting to draw a line through family and friends, though all of our siblings participated in the ceremony, and our closest friends got ready with us.

We chose a venue that set up and cleared everything, did food and drink, and allowed us to have the ceremony and reception in the one location. The fact they are my favourite smokehouse and right across the road from Tim’s paragliding launch was a bonus. Everyone there, including the celebrant and musicians, were friends and family. My grandmothers had been unwell, but one came with a nurse and was the centre of the party, and my father and brother assisted the other in making 100 pieces of her famous baklava to bring to the reception. From scratch. They even minced the nuts by hand.

So our wedding was amazing, for us, and worked wonderfully, for us. But I know it wouldn’t be for everyone. We would still be together whether we married or not. I suspect that is one of the reasons I still get aggravated when people say that “you’ll change your mind when you meet the right person” about marriage and/or children. You may well make that change, but it will be from within, over time, not some external sudden change. Or you might never change your mind—who knows? Either way, don’t expect the annoying questions to go away. I didn’t change my name, but intended to be fine with some incidental use of his family name. In reality, even with the best intentions, people who address me as such still inspire Bone. Deep. Rage. If you want to see steam coming out of my ears, ask me when we are having children. Those old pressures to conform are still there. They’ve mutated into other forms that are just as big and scary.

In the end, we married because it was right for us. We will continue to define what marriage means to us for as long as we are together. If I never feel “different”, then that is fine with me. We will build our lives and loves together, and that’s what matters.

The Info—Photography: Neil Reeves (with additional photos by our friend Phil) / Venue: Poachers Pantry, Hall, ACT, Australia / Celebrant: Steven English / Jazz Combo: Frequently Asked Questions / Cake: By Anna’s Cousin Emma / Anna’s Dress: Jovani (teamed with her favorite Doc Martens) / Tim’s Tie: Cyberoptix Tie Lab / Tim’s Cufflinks: Benjamin Cufflinks  / Button, Cake Topper, Buttonholes: Made by Anna

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  • “don’t expect the annoying questions to go away.”

    Indeed. Exactly. Totally spot on.

    To me, personally, the big difference about being married is that I spend much more of my time explaining to random folks what ‘being married’ feels like.

    I was asked if we were having children less than 15 minutes after the end of the wedding ceremony. We have received the first piece of mail with just his last name on it. I try to keep calm by telling myself it’s just people projecting their need for affirmation on their life choices on me.

    On an unrelated note: your hair piece is awesome. And you sound awesome too!

    • Sometimes I feel part of planning to get married is learning to respond with some semblance of grace to all the annoying and intrustive questions. Because somehow it seems like they aren’t going anywhere.

      • Jaime

        I agree that unfortunately the annoying and intrusive questions aren’t going anywhere. However it feels to me that these questions aren’t a new thing, only a revamping of older questions. In my experience people have been bombarding me with annoying and intrusive questions way before my fiance and I even met, let alone started dating or becoming engaged. Getting engaged just added to some of the questions or made them even more personal and intrusive.

        “Do you plan on losing weight before trying to have kids?”
        “Why aren’t you trying to lose weight for your wedding?”
        “You do plan on finding a job when you get married, right?”

        I’ve been having to answer questions (from complete strangers!) regarding my weight for years so it’s always been a matter of picking my battles. Of course I am still learning and after so many contentious years, my patience with family has become woefully thin. Gaining new family has actually been helpful in finding a new well of patience for the well-meaning, but wildly inappropriate, questions my family, acquaintances, and strangers think to ask.

      • Marisa-Andrea

        No they aren’t going anywhere. Ever. We just had a child (notice I didn’t say we just had our “first”) and people immediately started asking when we having our second. I’ve gotten used to the questions, but I have not gotten used to how aggressive people can be. If I simply smile and say something like “oh we don’t know yet” people proceed to lecture me about how only children suck (um, I could be an only child for all they know), the baby MUST have a sibling, it is selfish to only have one etc. I do not understand why people are totally comfortable projecting their crap onto people they do not know or know well.

  • Brooke

    Beautiful dress!! I recently married a “fine looking horn player ” myself, and wore a coloured dress too, so I feel an affinity with your story! Congratulations and best wishes.

  • Tattered Notebook

    Thanks for this! I feel like you’ve been giving voice to so much of my thoughts. Especially this, exactly:

    “In the end, we married because it was right for us. We will continue to define what marriage means to us for as long as we are together. If I never feel “different”, then that is fine with me. We will build our lives and loves together, and that’s what matters.”

  • Absolutely awesome wedding graduate post. I love everything about it, and it resonates deeply with me. And also, every picture is so pretty! Congratulations.

  • Wisteria

    “I resisted especially because I was beginning to lose track of whether I was opposed to various traditions because I genuinely didn’t like them, or just to be contrary.”


    I can conpletelu relate to this as it is a constant struggle for me as I contnue to transition into adulthood. Thank goodness my partner generally knows which it is and snaps me out of it!

    • Kestrel

      I do this all the time in my life too. For the longest time, I refused to wear dresses – basically simply because I didn’t want to be the ‘standard girl’. Well, no one told me they’re the freaking coolest thing you can wear during the summer!

      (Also, spinning around in a twirly dress satisfies my inner 2 year old. Heck, who am I kidding they satisfy my very visible outer 2 year old)

      • Alexandra

        I had the exact same experience with dresses and being the standard girl. XD Long skirts are also amazing on those days where the temperature changes a lot. It’s like a blanket when it’s cold and air conditioned, and all loose and breezy in the heat.

        I still have trouble wearing a dress in the winter though.

      • Not Sarah

        I don’t wear dresses in winter (though hah, like we really have winter in Seattle), but I find every opportunity possible to wear dresses and skirts in the summer. Shorts are just so confining and I wear them so infrequently that it’s hard to find ones that fit right from year to year. Skirts are far more flexible in their fit.

        I used to not do things just because everyone else did them, but I’m realizing that some of those things are actually kind of fun. I still refuse to buy stockings to wear dresses in the winter. I opt for freezing my legs off instead.

  • KB

    I agree that it’s really rage-inducing to hear people make assumptions about your wedding/marriage/children/life, but sometimes it goes the other way. Some of my friends just can’t believe that I’d actually want to adopt my soon-to-be husband’s last name and it just annoys the absolute crap out of me that I have to explain and/or defend my thoughts when, you know what, it’s my decision. There’s something about weddings that makes people think that you have to be either All Bohemian-Feminist or All Stepford-Wife – and if you instead pick and choose what fits you as a couple, it’s like you committed a crime against the State of Matrimony…

    I also can’t believe that people ask when you’re going to have children at all, let alone at the wedding. I can see people asking generally like “what are your thoughts on kids?” but to just assume that you’re having them is just rude.

    • Jaime

      “There’s something about weddings that makes people think that you have to be either All Bohemian-Feminist or All Stepford-Wife – and if you instead pick and choose what fits you as a couple, it’s like you committed a crime against the State of Matrimony…”

      You summed it up perfectly. I, too, am taking my fiance’s last name and having to defend my choice makes me rage.

  • Sarah

    What a beautiful wedding! It reminds me of mine, just a few weeks ago, especially in the items I knew would never be a part of the wedding and the people who were confused by what we did (there was also huge confusion over us spending the morning preparing for the wedding together).

    Also, if that I don’t feel any different after getting married. Which, in a way, is good, as I felt completely in love and happy before the wedding so why do I want to feel different now?

  • As much as those photos with that kickass dress are amazing, that last one is a kicker. I rarely see photos of couples gazing at each other that don’t come across as looking cheesy or staged (even if they are genuine!). This one is legit and I love it!

  • I want to put your wedding dress in my mouth and eat it, it’s that deliciously awesome!

    • Laura

      Agreed. I can’t stop staring.

  • Shawna Elise

    The picture of the two of them getting married under that tree is amazing. I love the way the dress and the tree look near each other.

  • LOVE. That. Dress. And I love the wisdom you share. Thanks for writing this.

  • Anne

    THANK YOU for talking about not feeling different after your wedding. We got married three weeks ago, and everyone keeps asking me how married life is treating me. I’d love to say it’s different, but…like you, we’ve been through so many challenging and life-changing experiences together already that I haven’t felt anything change yet. And maybe it’s too soon to tell, but there’s definitely a cultural expectation that your relationship will change dramatically once you get married, and I don’t think that’s the case for everyone.

  • Your dress is amazing! Also, this is possibly my favorite post ever on APW.

    I’ve been planning my wedding since I was old enough to know what weddings were (maybe before that, but they were mostly just big parties with cake then I think), but I grew up to be the kind of person who is “extremely fond of my independence.” Or, as most people put it, “I like myself better than I like anyone else,” which is more self-centered and maybe a little more true than I tend to spin it.

    But this gave me…hope? Inspiration? Someone who thinks like I do? And has great fashion sense to boot? Either way, great post!

  • Noemi

    This post just made me so happy. It brings me so much joy to hear about her development of love for her husband and the choices they made together. I wish them both so much love for the future! Thank you for sharing your story!

  • Pixie_moxie

    Great post thank you for sharing, the presumtious question about babys makes me boil. Even if we want children. and I can’t comment with out gushing about how amazing your dress with your boots is! Awesome! Such love in your photos :)

  • April

    LOVE LOVE LOVE!! So much of what you said had me nodding my head in agreement. I especially enjoyed reading about how you came into your relationship and subsequent marriage. Seriously AWESOME grad post and the best wedding dress I’ve ever seen. EVER. ~XOXO

  • KateM

    This post really interesting on a lot of levels. One, that you still don’t seem to be reconciled to the idea of being married. The whole”you will change your mind when you meet the right person” cliche, is a cliche because it is very often true (altough not always), and seems to be in this case. You recognized something in marriage that you wanted, it may not have been a traditional process, but I think that makes it even more interesting to me because you asked him out first and you proposed to him. Which is awesome, but clearly this is something you choose for yourself and didn’t just go along with it and then decide that it was right for you too. I guess I just would have been curious to hear more of your thought process on why you decided to marry, when you were initially against the institution as a whole.
    The second thing about this post that really caught at me was the topic of people asking what comes next, are you getting married, are you having kids, and assuming that you are taking his last name. It is really the same people who asked me “are you still single, are you ever going to get married, are you going to move closer to your family.” And I think most of these questions are because they are genuinely interested in your life and want you to be happy, and this is their way of showing it, regardless of it being misguided. I think it was talked about in another post somewhere, but that those questions are an opportunity to present other options and life choices and by having those conversations you may open someones mind in a new way. It also makes me think of the whole wedding shower thing, this is them wanting to participate in your life and show that they care. Over all a great post. Definitely made me think.

    • Anna

      Anna here (a little late to the party – Australian hours)

      Thanks for your comment – it really made me do some more thinking. There is still a certain degree of ambivalence in my thoughts and writing, but I suspect there always will be, if “marriage” is defined by other people’s terms, let alone much of what is presented culturally. I’m happy with what marriage has come to mean to us. We wanted those public vows, that one-off gathering of friends, and yes, the massive party (even though legally it made very little difference – we had been living together long enough to be classed as de-facto, with all the legal rights of a married couple). But I think we also decided that our marriage was something that we wanted to outline for ourselves, and felt that we could do so.

      But sometimes I hit smack bang into what other people’s ideas of marriage are, and the ways that they try to relate that to our experience, and then the rage monster starts to stir. Possibly because there is that small voice that thinks I may have “sold out” somehow (not helped I’m sure by the fact I’ll be submitting my doctoral thesis in 10 days and therefore am crabby mccrabbypants at the moment). Possibly because I’m still learning how to have some of these conversations without sounding like I’m attacking other people’s life choices.

      That was kind of rambling, which is to be expected, I guess, since this stuff is an ongoing negotiation rather than a settled state. Perhaps it’s easiest to think of me and “marriage” having an uneasy truce rather than truly being at peace yet. Though I kind of prefer the shoe analogy – all of my favourite shoes have been a little uncomfortable at first, but once worn in, are well worth the initial effort! Here’s hoping marriage is like a good leather pair, and keeps on changing to fit my feet as the years go on. Ok, maybe not the best analogy, but it works for me!

      ETA – Just on me proposing, Tim was fine with the idea of being “married” before I was. I kind of felt that since it was me who was the hold-out, it should be me who made that final move. Since neither of us was particularly fixated on the idea of a formal proposal, it worked out rather well (though when we rang my parents to tell them, Dad thought I was going to say I was pregnant!).

  • Not Sarah

    First off: Best. Wedding. Dress. Ever.

    Second: Thank you. I’ve always had no interest in kids and until recently, I never had any interest in getting married either. (I’m still single, but I’m starting to think that maybe marriage isn’t as crazy as I once thought it was.) I love hearing stories from people who have had similar experiences.

  • IRMcK

    “I didn’t change my name, but intended to be fine with some incidental use of his family name. In reality, even with the best intentions, people who address me as such still inspire Bone. Deep. Rage. ”

    Yes. This. A thousand times, yes.

    Actually, for me (and only for me, not a judgement on anyone else’s choice), I think it has less to do with his family name and more to do with “Mrs.” I’m totally happy being married to my sweet husband, I love being his wife, but “Mrs. Anything” inspires the Bone. Deep. Rage. Why does MY formal title have to reflect my marital status while his doesn’t? Of course, as a Ph.D, you can skip all that business and go straight to “Dr”. : )

  • Class of 1980

    I’ve been waiting for a printed dress for an ice age. It looks like pure joy.

  • Anna

    Thank you all for your lovely and thought-provoking comments. I’ve loved the APW community for years, before I was even engaged, and you all played a part in how I think about marriage and commitment. It is wonderful to be contributing to those conversations.

    • Jo

      Anna and Meg,
      Thank you so much for writing and running this post. I cling to posts like this in my need for precedent and understanding. My partner and I both have a lot of the same attachments to anti-wedding-ness that you describe in your fourth paragraph, and I was never a girl who dreamed of a wedding. Fortunately, we have the same situation and are considered “Common Law” by our state, and have a very happy and healthy permanent relationship. Unfortunately, over the last year or so I began thinking that a wedding might be fun. My partner disagrees. We spent a lot of last year struggling to decide whether or not to go forward with one, chose to do so, and then as the planning got underway we decided to put it off because we couldn’t find comfort in any of the plans. We both felt conflicted about just about every decision, and so now we’re just in a happy state of not-worrying-about-it. I started reading APW exactly for posts like this, to find people who can relate to what I’m going through and see examples of weddings that make more sense to me.
      Anyway, rambling.
      Anna, if you ever get the chance, I’d love to hear more about what changed your mind, why you decided to have a wedding after all, how you reconciled your internal conflict about “the institution” and spending money, etc.
      And thanks again!

      • Anna

        I suspect it’s something that I will keep thinking about in times to come, since I can’t exactly put my finger on it. I’m sure I was influenced to some degree by the expectations of friends and family, and that my now-husband felt quite strongly that if we were going to be in this together for the long haul, then he wanted to get married. Once I had decided that a legal wedding was something I could be on board with, it was important to both of us that as many of our friends and family as possible be able to attend, and that we could feed them good food, and drink good wine, and dance to good music.

        I still refuse to add up the final cost, but I kind of made my peace with it by making all of the spending decisions mindfully. I know that we could have paid it from our savings if we had wanted to, though we happily accepted our parents’ generous contributions. I am happy with where the money was allocated – some two thirds on the food and drink, and the rest on the other touches that were important to us (especially things like awesome photography and unusual rings). Everything else was ruthlessly cut. I’m fully aware that one of the reasons we were able to have our wedding within our budget was our awesome friends and family who pitched in with cake and music and hair styling and discounted photos, or travelled for hours to perform the ceremony. If they hadn’t helped, some of these things would have been cut. Others I would have done myself, or cut money elsewhere to hire strangers. But I am so glad that we were able to have so many friends and family as part of the day.

        And the institution itself? I guess I kind of have to do a bit of backstory here. I’ve always loved words and reading. I’m trained as a historian, and my days are full of research and writing and thinking and talking and analysis. To me words matter. Words shape perceptions, and life, and reality. I’m a word nerd, through and through. And getting married gave me an opportunity to think about how the ideas and the words and the future could be a part of my relationship more than ever. Of course, we could have had a non-legal ceremony, or eloped, or just whispered them to each other in bed one night. But for who we are and what we wanted, public proclamation worked well. We went to premarital counselling (I strongly recommend this to everyone, regardless of how strong your relationship or communication style is). We talked about our past and present and dreams for the future, with a neutral facilitator. And we planned and worked on our ceremony.

        Our readings were full of love and hope, bones and dreams, but also the deepest demons and unsolvable problems, and the knowledge that our love was imperfect but worthwhile (and rather like owning a dog). We swore to love each other as individuals, partners and equals, through the changes wrought by time and life. We vowed to have many adventures, and hoped to grow old together. When I look at my ring (and think of the matching one he wears) I think of forging and defining a future, and of how the words themselves help to define such ideas and ideals.

        I hope some of that made sense. For someone who loves words, that took an awful lot of convoluted ones to get onto the page!

  • Beth C

    Hell Yeah Anna!

    So much of this post spoke to me. I have those same urges to resist conformity and raging at all the questions. The other thing I liked about your post is how you addressed what happens when your partner likes some of the traditional things. My Tim (I’m marrying a Tim too) is smitten with the idea of me wearing a white dress – who knew? We learn to understand each others positions and create a special day that we can feel good about. And we remind ourselves, it’s not THE special day, it’s A special day.

    Thanks for the insight.

  • this is so much fun!! :X love her dress :X so vibrant

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  • Sarah

    Lovely wedding! I love that you did it the way you wanted and I love your dress! I’m planning a tiny wedding with immediate family and very close friends (maybe 20 people?), and I’m wearing cotton. I don’t plan on changing my name right away. What with moving to another country immediately and other big issues and the fact that he doesn’t care, it’s just not a priority. But I do plan on being a housewife because that appeals to me and him. He’s fine if I want to work and fine if I want to stay home, and I’m happier at home cooking and cleaning and being domestic, which I’m passionate about, than I am working some 9-5 job that I care very little about. If I found a job I were passionate about or we had a need for me to work, I’d do it.

    These are all choices we have to make personally, and it’s silly to be made to feel uncomfortable for our personal choices. (Having to explain the no-name-change thing or the housewife-thing–no I’m not a militant hippy feminist* and no I’m not lazy.)

    This is why I love APW. Everybody is respected for their own choices and we get to see so many beautiful, unique marriages due to this. Knowing there’s no “right” way to do a wedding except to have the wedding that makes you happy is a wonderful knowledge.

    *I’m not calling anybody that. I’m imagining reactions.