Today’s wedding graduate post is from two long time APW readers, and it comes in two parts. The first part is from Christina (the brunette in the lace dress). It deals with profound issues like: figuring out you want to get married in the first place; realizing you’re worthy of all of it; pretty dresses; a party; receiving the love of your community. It’s a must-read for all of us, wedding planning or not, as we struggle through owning our fabulous selves. Add to that, the wedding was shot by Kelly Prizel Photography (more on that in Meighan’s Part II) and is shockingly lovely. And now, Christina:
I struggled for a long, long time with the idea of getting married. Actually, that’s not true. I always figured I would get married eventually; I just never thought it would be to a woman. And then I fell in love with one.
And without realizing it, she set about wrecking all of the preconceived notions and bullshit I had built up about myself. We moved in to a fourth floor walk-up in the city and six months later, we had lived to tell the tale, so we talked about weddings. I didn’t see the need. My family thought of us as married, gay marriage wasn’t government sanctioned, and weddings are expensive. My work considered us domestic partners, we had joint checking and a lease, and we were partners, set, done. We would continue on as we were until federal law recognized all marriages, then we’d have a fabulous wedding. We already had two anniversaries (long story), why add a third? What’s the point?
The point was that it made a difference to her. Unbeknownst to me, she had been looking at rings and was testing the waters about popping the question. That talk was long and awkward and emotional and we left it with our relationship in good standing, but I needed to think about us and our relationship and if (not when) I was ready, to propose.
So, I thought about it for a good six months. And then we went ring shopping. And then I proposed, and then we started talking about weddings. And I got uncomfortable very quickly. It took me a long time to figure out why I had this resistance to having a big party with all of the trimmings of a wedding, but when I did, it was kind of life changing. When it boiled down to it, I couldn’t help but feel that because our partnership was different because we were two chicks, somehow we were not as good or deserving as all the straight couples. That because we didn’t have the blessings of the federal government to file joint taxes, because there was this big debate, because people felt the need to label gay marriage as shameful and wrong, we were somehow “less than” everybody else. When I realized that my negative voices were an internalization of homophobia as spewed by the RNC and Fox News, I put my should-monster to rest. Mostly.
Shopping for my wedding dress was another life-changing experience. I know that sounds ludicrous, but it’s true. I’ve been at war with myself about my body since I was 13. That’s 17 years of self-destruction, including times where I yelled at myself for not loving myself more. When dress shopping came around, I didn’t want to think about how I wanted to look because in the end, I knew I’d look fat. So who cares? Buy the polyester satin off the shoulder dress with side ruching. Whatever. Done.
But I kept looking at this one picture I found of a lace mermaid dress and wanting it. Even after an unfortunate trip to New York to be filmed for Say Yes to the Dress with the fiancée, bridesmaids and both sets of parents.* I put down a deposit on a dress that looked fine, showed the pictures to friends and was kind of excited. But I still found myself stroking the picture of that other dress, talking about it with Meigh and wishing I wasn’t such a giant heifer and could wear it.
I kept telling myself that because I was so fat, ugly, unfortunate, etc… the dress I wanted wouldn’t look good on me. And then I tried it on. And I liked it. And I realized that I didn’t have to be 80 pounds lighter, 3 inches taller, smarter, more articulate, etc… to have what I wanted. I could just be me. I felt something uncurl inside me when I let myself have it. It was freeing. It was not the magical cure all for body image issues, but it helped me change the way I viewed myself. For once, I didn’t let my dress size exist as a punishment. It was just my dress size. Even with the $250 plus size charge.
Meigh’s dad has a great quote: It’s not an ordeal, it’s an adventure. And this wedding sure was a hell of an adventure. I work in theatre fundraising, so I’m used to running around behind the scenes Getting Shit Done. When you DIT a lot of your own wedding, that’s not possible. I had a moment in the planning where I realized that no, I wouldn’t be able to turn around the speakers in between the ceremony and the cocktail hour because I’d be a) in a wedding gown and b) taking couples portraits. Having to let go of that aspect and assign tasks to friends and family was hard. I tend to take things on myself rather than impose on others, but it’s amazing to realize that you can’t because it’s YOUR MOTHERF*CKING WEDDING and that your friends and family are more than willing to roll up their sleeves and join in.
It’d be really easy to look back on the actual wedding day and just see the things that went wrong. Our catering manager no showed due to an issue at an earlier wedding and sent a pastry chef to manage our day instead. As a result, we ran way behind and half of the crafts Meigh had meticulously worked on for months were left out. The seating arrangements dissolved into chaos. The divine Kelly Prizel made info cards for the guests, and I had a great place to distribute them—which I neglected to mention to her or the friends we had decorating. My father-in-law decided to hand out cigars just as we were about to start toasts, putting us even further behind.
And then there was the weather. If you asked younger me what I thought my wedding would look like, I wouldn’t have any idea except outside under a tree. And the fabulous venue we found had a gorgeous garden and a beautiful tree that would be just perfect. Except for the part when it spent all Friday and Saturday afternoon misting rain. I was so, so upset. And then, as Meigh so perfectly put it, “Screw it. If it rains, it rains. We’ll do couples shots in rainboots and it’ll be adorable.” We got married in the tent. And it was OK. It was still OK when the skies opened up at 9pm, and when the thunder and lightning started at 10, though packing out a wedding in a thunderstorm leads to some seriously damp goods the next day.
My mantra for the wedding day was simply “Enjoy this,” and I have to use it when looking back. Yes, all of those things happened. Yes, it was upsetting. Yes, I wish a lot of things had happened differently, that I had hemmed my dress higher, that the signage for the photobooth was better, that I’d picked better shoes. I made a conscious choice to roll with whatever happened. This was my wedding and I had more important ways to spend my emotional energy than being upset that something I was promised wasn’t delivered. Getting caught up in the things that go awry means that you miss the fabulous things. Like my parents dancing to “Sexy Back” or being gifted a gorgeous quilt made by Meigh’s maternal family or my introverted brother busting several moves on the dance floor or watching our guests interact.
Because a wedding isn’t about the things or the food, it’s about the people. There’s something truly inspiring in looking at a tent full of people and realizing just how many people have come together to celebrate your relationship. And that your relationship is worth celebrating! People from every aspect of your life and your fiancee’s life have made a sacrifice of some kind to be there to see it.
But there are those who aren’t there. I spent our RSVP process slowly realizing that all of the people who gushed over how excited they were for our wedding and how much they were looking forward to it were not, in fact, coming. Some reasons were been perfectly valid (couldn’t get time off of work, family emergencies) and some… could have been phrased more sensitively. We’ve got friends and family scattered all over the country, and I understood that not everyone can make the commute or put up for a hotel room, but as more and more of the “no’s” came in, it got harder and harder not to take it personally. And, you know, I know the whys. But still. It hurt. And it’s hard not to read your own reasons into why someone’s not going to be there. But in the end, I had to realize that, as APW so perfectly puts it, your friends and family don’t stop being themselves for your wedding. If anything, it highlights their best and worst qualities. And that’s why you love them. They are, for better or worse, themselves.
And you, for better, worse and weddings in a thunderstorm, are you. And that’s why they love you.
Pictures by Kelly Prizel Photography
* The less said about the SYttD filming, the better. They never aired our footage, which was the best present TLC could give me. Ladies, reality TV shouldn’t be a part of your wedding.