One of the things I’ve said about wedding planning for the last decade—in books, to reporters, to anyone I can get to take a seat and listen—is this: people you love are not going to change just because you’re planning a wedding, no matter how much you want them to.
The problem is, we’ve all seen a million movies and heard a million stories (plenty on APW, for goodness sake) about how a couple’s friends rallied around them in some magical way to make their wedding happen. We’ve absorbed all of it: the idea that wedding planning is a moment of perfect bonding between mother and daughter, the idealized experience of dancing with your dad at your wedding, the image of all of your siblings and best friends standing up with you in your wedding party. We get engaged and think, “Now it’s my turn for the perfect friends-and-family moment!”
And then reality hits. And we realize that the people we love are the same imperfect people that they’ve always been. And, in fact, whatever family drama and tensions are simmering under the surface will likely break loose with the tension of wedding planning. We figure out that people are going to make their problems your business, at the moment you are least equipped to handle it.
So when I started planning a ten-year anniversary party/vow renewal, my question was: since it wasn’t a wedding, could I get the fun of wedding planning without any of the family drama? I was very hopeful.
Spoiler alert: that was never going to happen. Since we’re planning this party on a really condensed timeline, it took just a few weeks of planning for all of that simmering drama to boil right to the surface. The people we show up for, who don’t tend to show up for us… up to their usual tricks. The tension between family members that certainly has nothing to do with us, so nobody will make it our problem, right?… is suddenly, somehow, our problem already. And don’t get me started on the RSVP rate.
I want to tell you that in the past ten years since we planned our wedding—in becoming a legit wedding expert, one who NPR calls to interview about family drama at weddings—I’ve figured it all out. I want to tell you that the kind of drama that hurt me ten years ago doesn’t hurt me now. But surprise! It still does. Because I’m still a human being with feelings and emotions.
If I’ve learned one thing in ten years, though, it’s this: other people’s drama is not about me. Folx who can’t bring themselves to emotionally show up for me? That’s not because I’m an unworthy person. Family drama that people try to impose on me? Still not my business. I’ve figured out that it’s normal to have hurt feelings when people behave in hurtful ways, and I don’t have to beat myself up about it. And I’ve figured out that the best I can do is keep on celebrating the big thing that I’m celebrating, which is our relationship, our love, and (in this case) our two little kids. Everyone else will show up to the extent that they can. Some people will surprise us by showing ALL THE WAY UP in truly magical ways, and some people will disappoint us by dropping the ball yet again. (They will often be exactly the same people who showed up/failed to show up ten years ago, in very similar ways… so I can also probably stop being surprised by their behavior.) The best I can do is stay focused on my own mental health and my own best interests.
And also, vent about it when people’s drama gets bad.
Which brings me to y’all. What family drama or emotional nonsense are people throwing your way during wedding planning? What crap have people pulled that you’re really struggling to get over? (And if you’re already married, feel free to join in. Ten years later, there are still things people pulled at our wedding that I occasionally need to re-hash, because sometimes there isn’t a statute of limitations on shitty behavior.)