The Hard Work of a Wedding Happens on the Inside

Everything that happens after the wedding matters, too

by Hannah Combs

bride putting on her shoes

We had an amazing wedding… that I didn’t want. It was this beautiful joy-filled day, one of the very best of my life. I was never opposed to having that kind of day, but I didn’t want my life to be overtaken by what I thought would be months of talking about party related things, like clothes and decorations. I used to think that weddings were important at their base but generally frivolous, and I was wrong. Weddings are useful; I believe that now.

I did a lot of work as a single person to be ready for a relationship, and then I did a lot of work to be healthy enough to stay in my relationship, and then I did a lot of work to be able to commit to marriage. It wasn’t wasted work, but it all had to be revisited. Everything you think you have in order within yourself—all the things you carefully considered and put in jars, on internal shelves? Yeah, the wedding is going to come in and knock all that shit down. And it doesn’t just take apart all your work on the carefully considered stuff, either. Whatever you’ve shoved into dark corners and said you’ll deal with later? The wedding comes in and is all, oh no, you’re going to deal with it now. Right now, at this venue meeting. Or perhaps at 3am, when you can’t sleep and your to-do list is dancing behind your closed eyes.

wedding work is internal work

The wedding forced me to dismantle all my internal work. It forced me to take everything off my shelves, touch all the icky corners, and reorganize myself in a way that would allow me to be a person who could commit to forever. I kept trying to explain why I was so stressed this year, but my words couldn’t quite touch what was actually happening.

It was never the menu or the decorations or the spreadsheets that were stressing me out; I was working really hard, invisibly, to get myself ready. And when the day came, I was ready. I was exhausted to my core, but I was open and able to accept all the love and awesomeness of the weekend. I said my vows with a confidence that comes only from knowing there were no untouched issues, no dust bunnies piled in the corner.

…but what happens to the external?

But my actual house? It was a disaster. There was wedding stuff everywhere, the bathrooms were not clean. And my external body? Also not at its best. I neglected my normal workouts, sacrificed my precious time in the woods, let go of some of my other goals. I watched a lot of bad TV in the dark. It was triage, and I don’t regret it. I chose to stand up there in front of everyone eight pounds heavier than normal and living in a clutter palace and I chose to be without doubt.

When the wedding and honeymoon were over, I went on this big organizational tear through the house, and it mirrored an internal need I’ve been feeling to finalize and process the wedding. The wedding is done, and just like I needed to reorganize myself into a bride, now I need to reorganize myself into a married person who, frankly, is excited to do other things this year.

putting the wedding away

I’ve been finding that it’s difficult to explain. I can get close—I’ve been saying vehemently, over and over, that I need to “put the wedding away,” that I need it to be really finally over and done with. As I wash individual plates and cups and put them in cabinets, I’m putting my jars of happy wedding memories on my shelves next to the ones filled with past disappointments and pain. I know I’ll need to open them all back up someday, and I’ll be ready. But for now, I really need the space.

Hannah Combs

Hannah lives in Colorado, spends a lot of time in the woods, and mostly talks to animals instead of people. A spreadsheet-er by day, she is a long-distance runner/hiker and secret writer by night. All things are possible with the assistance of either coffee or good beer.

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  • L

    Such a beautiful post, thank you so much for sharing as eloquently as you possibly could.

  • idkmybffjill

    I love this.

    “The wedding is done, and just like I needed to reorganize myself into a bride, now I need to reorganize myself into a married person who, frankly, is excited to do other things this year.”

    So spot on.

  • sofar

    Ever since the wedding, my husband and I have been looking at each other and saying, “Let’s NEVER get married again. That sucked.”

    The day was great. The planning was awful. And I am so, so, so glad it’s OVER. I feel the same relief I felt upon taking my last exam in grad school.

    • Alyssa

      Yes to the experience of planning. We actually didn’t even get far into our planning before I saw the forthcoming stress and agony of having to plan a huge wedding day for 100+ people (I was already keeping myself up at night pondering forks and napkins. Ugh.) So we said to ourselves (and each other) “screw it” and decided to go to Europe with our families and a few close friends, do a secular ceremony there, then have our reception at the Fete de la Musique festival in Paris.

  • Eh

    A lot of people talk about the post-wedding blues, I’m glad to see a different perspective. I loved my wedding but I was over it and needed to move on. The stress of planning and the family drama had made the experience unpleasant. The crappy stuff that can surround a wedding is only about one day (though it can go on for a long time before that); the marriage will continue past that day so you need to put work into that.

  • Alexandra

    Oh man I much prefer being married to planning a wedding. It just gets better and better.

  • NolaJael

    I will admit that the engagement process had an amplifying effect on my inner fears that I thought I’d tamed. It felt like every time we’d fight I’d think, “I’m MARRYING someone who thinks THAT?!” Even over completely trivial stuff. I had to consciously work on reminding myself that we were each marrying a whole, flawed, perfectly imperfect person. That definitely took some inner work.

  • NotMotherTheresa

    You seriously couldn’t pay me enough to go back to my wedding planning days. My wedding was wonderful, and the wedding itself really wasn’t *that* complicated to plan in the grand scheme of things, but there was just so much internal (and sometimes external) drama! I felt like my life and relationships were bathed in the worst florescent lighting known to man, and all of the lumps and bumps I normally try to hide and forget about were put on display for public consumption.
    To make everything worse, I’m one of those people who works really hard to present the idea of having the ideal family and super perfect friends, so in addition to the hurt I felt at times, I also had the stress of not being able to openly admit how much I was hurting. There were so many times when I’d go cry in private, only to have to put on a smile ten minutes later and reassure everyone that “No, it’s totally okay that Mom/Grandma/Best Friend skipped (insert major event here)! She had super valid reason, and I don’t mind at all!” (When said reason actually consisted of something like being hungover and wanting to watch Netflix.) I just felt so much pressure to be this fabulous, successful person who’s relationships are all completely healthy and awesome in every way, yet the realities of wedding planning more or less closed down the streets and gave the dysfunctional corners of my life their own parade, complete with a drunk marching band and exploding floats.

  • Anna

    Thank you for this. I’m definitely in the “touching icky corners” phase of wedding planning self awareness right now, and damn, is it challenging! It’s inspiring and gratifying to hear that there is goodness in this work.