I came into wedding planning with very few assumptions: I’d wear a dress, probably in some shade of white. My dad would walk me down the aisle. Jared would be the groom. We would eat cake. In my head, cake was a given. What’s the point of birthdays and weddings if there is no cake?
I still think about my friend’s wedding cake in Key West back in 2007. It was key lime-flavored and I had to fight the urge to hover around the tables, eating abandoned slices as I went. On their one-year anniversary I almost asked if I could come around to help them eat the frozen top tier (a tradition I’m unsure about in practice but the cake was that good I was willing to experiment). When they got divorced she told me that they’d never managed to eat the anniversary cake and that made me sad.
But anyway. Cake. It’s what’s for dinner. When Jared and I discussed the possibility of getting married in Hawaii—the midway point between his Australia and my Indiana—the idea for a pineapple-flavored cake was born. With coconut! And light, fluffy icing! OMG. Let’s get married right now.
“Do you think we really need a cake?” he asked. “What about a pie or something?”
I was flabbergasted. This, from a man who I have witnessed eat a piece of cake topped with ice cream topped with whipped cream, then ask for more. A pie? That was crazy talk. Am I engaged to a stranger? It was my first clue that wedding planning wasn’t going to be as seamless as I’d imagined.
We’ve since butted heads over the need for save-the-dates, with him claiming that they’re an over-the-top American invention and me insisting that they’re a common courtesy for guests at a destination wedding. We debated the merits of saving the date by way of email, text, or Facebook message. Then a white flag in the form of a save-the-date card arrived from one of his Aussie friends and Jared conceded. We ordered a stack of postcards and they arrived in the mail one painless week later.
In the early stages, when I started planning, it very quickly became overwhelming. I say “I” started planning because I had a misguided notion that as the bride, I was supposed to be the one to get the ball rolling. I took it upon myself to stress about venues, photography, and catering. In the evenings, I’d present Jared with options, debating about the outdoor venue that probably has mosquitoes and the one that doesn’t let you bring your own alcohol and the one that has everything we want but it’s more expensive—How will we ever choose?
“Hey,” Jared said. “Don’t stress. You don’t have to do all of it yourself. I’m here, too.”
That was a revelation. It shouldn’t have been, but it was. Jared and I won’t always share opinions, even when it seems obvious to one of us (coughCAKEcough) but we’re in it together. It shows me that weddings have a point beyond celebration and ceremony; they’re much bigger than a one-day event. Planning the wedding forces us to compromise and find middle ground. We learn to work out what’s important to us as individuals and how to preserve those values as a couple, a skill that will be invaluable in our marriage.
Jared and I got engaged almost two years ago in Oahu, after a stop at a North Shore bakery. We’d bought a slice of chocolate cream pie to eat in the courtyard, and it was so good we went right back in to buy a whole pie. Later that afternoon, Jared asked me to marry him. I’m not suggesting that we were both so hopped up on pie that we agreed to get married, but eating that piece of pie in the courtyard is one of the most vivid memories I have from our engagement day.
For a while after the “Do we need cake” bombshell, I second-guessed myself. Do we need cake? That pie was a top-tier dessert, and the bakery is near our venue. Plus the pie comes with bonus points for day-of-engagement meaningfulness. It sounded like a reasonable compromise, and I told Jared that I was okay with having wedding pie even though a little part of me still mourned the cake.
Until one day it hit me: Forgoing cake for pie? That’s not a compromise. Negotiating over flavor is a compromise. Having cake and pie is a compromise. But giving up on cake without talking about it is just… giving up. And that’s not what our relationship is about; that’s not what our impending marriage is about. And compromise can’t start until one of us stands up and says, “This is important to me and here’s why.”
And cake, inexplicably, is important to me. It doesn’t have to be fancy. It doesn’t even have to be pineapple-flavored (though that’s a seriously good idea, right?). It might be sitting on the table alongside a couple of chocolate cream pies (in which case I will have a slice of both, please). But I would like it to be there. When I told Jared about my need for cake, he was open to the change; it was a compromise he was happy to make. Suddenly, what seemed like a roadblock was a very easy problem to solve.
Whatever cake flavor we eventually choose, freezing the top tier won’t be practical with a destination wedding. (And I still think it’s weird.) So on our one-year anniversary, maybe we’ll go out for pie instead.