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Wedding Dropout: Joy From Pain

I know this is a site about weddings and marriage. But I don’t always think about it exactly that way anymore. I think about it as this place that all these amazing women gather to share stories. Because we tell a lot of stories related to weddings and marraige and life relationships, the stories tend to be emotional (and pretty…) but that’s not the whole point. After I published Sara’s mind-blowingly brave story of calling off her wedding, I heard from lots of you. Turns out lots of you have called off previous weddings, or never thought you would call off your wedding ever… until suddenly you needed to. But most recently I heard from a blogger who goes by Ms. Loaf. Loaf was a pretty serious commenter on APW a year or so ago, and I assumed she’d gotten married and gotten quiet. So when I saw and email from her with the subject “Wedding Dropout,” the bottom sort of fell out of my stomach.

But by the time I’d finished reading her post, I felt my heart again. Really felt it. Because her story is such a sweet story of redemption. It, for me, is a reminder of how all those really sh*tty painful things we’ve all been through get us… closer, I think. Closer to where we need to be, or what we need to figure out. Or that’s what her post did for me. (and you can read lots more of Loaf over at More of This & Less of That.)

I am a wedding drop out. June 20 was supposed to be my one-year wedding anniversary.

For two years, I kept a blog documenting my relationship and road to the altar called Tales of a Female Husband. We were planning a legal wedding in Ontario, with many wedding elves helping us out, including Emily, a good friend of mine from college who would be our photographer. I loved wedding blogging, finding a community of offbeat bride bloggers and, especially, lesbian bride bloggers, since there was not a lot of support from my family, and my friends were all far away, scattered around the country. Not only was I excited for my wedding to make a public commitment and affirmation of my love for my partner, but I couldn’t wait to see all my friends.

Unfortunately, the relationship ended about as badly as I could imagine four months before the big day. Emily had just gotten engaged, and I couldn’t bear to trash my lovingly collected wedding paraphernalia, so I tearfully packed up a box full of wedding books and magazines and the Paloma’s Nest ring bowl we intended to use for the ring warming. My heart was utterly broken, and I didn’t think I would ever be able to think about a wedding, much less attend one without crying.

In a way, I was right.

A few months after my would-be wedding day, I got a letter from Emily asking me to officiate her wedding. The date? June 19.

I said yes immediately, knowing what an honor my friend had bestowed on me, and eager to be a part of such a special day. So many friends shied away from me, refusing to hear my opinion or ask my advice on wedding planning, seeming to think I was cursed. Emily never made me feel that way, something which went a long way toward helping me heal. The hardest thing for me about not getting married (aside, of course, from the broken heart) was that I felt embarrassed. Here I had put all my hopes and dreams, all my planning, all my dress fittings and accessories and wedding invites and engagement pictures on the internet for all to see, and then I never followed through. It was so unlike me, the perpetual planner, the girl who never gives up! I was so embarrassed that I quit blogging. Being part of a community and then, suddenly, no longer belonging there felt like a one-two punch of breakup and abandonment. My initial solution was to withdraw completely from anything and everything wedding. It just hurt too much. But now I know that just because my relationship ended and I never made it to the altar doesn’t mean I’m not still capable of contributing to weddinghood and marriage.

The day of the wedding came, and I got ready alone in my hotel room. I practiced the ceremony I’d written with Dan and Emily’s help, mostly based on a letter I asked them to write me about why they wanted to get married and the ceremony I’d written for my own wedding. Emily and Dan chose pink, brown and green as their wedding colors, and green was our primary color as well, so the majority of my wedding day attire came from my own wedding stash. I clasped the green and white pearls around my neck that I bought for my own wedding, and slipped my feet into the green shoes, sliding my phone and wallet in my own wedding day purse, along with the sixpence I was supposed to put in my own shoe I now passed on to Emily. When I arrived at Emily’s room to help her get into her dress, I discovered that they had even ordered the exact same tree bark wedding rings from Beth Cyr that my ex and I bought.

Watching Dan and Emily together as we took wedding pictures in the park (taken by the great Katie Malone), I couldn’t help but feel a little sorry for myself at first. Had things gone according to plan, I would be a wife and my wife would be carrying our first child by now. Of course I felt jealous. But also? I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else.

As easy as it is to want the whole world to end when your relationship ends—since it feels like world is over for you—the most helpful thing I’ve found is going directly in the direction of my fears. Not denying what happened to me, but not letting it stop me. I met Emily and her maid of honor Rachel when we were all undergraduates together. I was their Peer Mentor, and I loved being able to pass along some hopefully helpful knowledge and advice once again.

A year ago, I spent my would-be wedding day crying my eyes out and hiding in my grandma’s house, dead to the world. This year, I was eating a post-wedding brunch with my newly-married friends, completely forgetting the day’s former significance. It does take time, but the healing happens.

Emily and Dan’s wedding was amazing, and they seemed to do exactly everything right, knowing that the thing everyone wants most of all is to get to experience their joy. By being totally themselves and totally in love right there in front of us, I know we all felt that joy rub off on us. As I stood in front of the couple, tears rolling down my face as I said “I declare that you are husband and wife,” as I watched them kiss and process down the aisle, as I kicked off my shoes and danced to songs we used to play in college, I didn’t think once about my own wedding. I thought about (cheesy as it is) the meaning of true love. True love has nothing to do with romance, necessarily. You can find true love with your family, your friends, your partner(s). And your knowledge of love doesn’t disappear when your relationships do.

As friends and relatives of Dan and Emily came up to me and complimented me on a beautiful ceremony—many of them believing I’m really a minister—they spoke of how personal the ceremony was, how touching it was when I said to Emily, “If you cry, I’ll cry!” and how meaningful it was to see all three of us up there with tears in our eyes, I felt glad knowing that I’d been able to redirect my wedding energy elsewhere, and create joy from pain. From now on I can say, “this is the necklace I wore to Emily’s wedding!” or “this is Emily’s wedding anniversary weekend!” instead of the day and the objects always carrying the tinge of sorrow.

Photos: Ms. Loaf herself, and two wedding shots of Emily and Dan by Katie Malone

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