Surely everyone has a few wedding regrets when it’s all over and done with, don’t they? Little regrets like not getting to spend as much time with your new husband or wife on your wedding day. Or wishing you hadn’t ordered so many canapés before the main meal or kicking yourself for inviting the uncle who you knew in your heart would not behave within the realms of social acceptability. Please tell me I’m not the only person to have wedding day regrets. Please? If only so I can feel better.
As a British couple, when we got married twelve years ago, our ideas about our wedding ceremony were that we had no ideas. You see us Brits, unlike Americans and Canadians, are only just now slowly coming around to the idea of what a wedding ceremony is truly all about. We’re only just about getting past our ridiculous stiff-upper-lipped-British-ness and starting to have ceremonies where we don’t simply become legally married and act like casual bystanders to our own marriage-in-the-making, but are actual living, breathing participants of our ceremony and do and say the things that we have decided to do and say!
Let me give you a little background to our own ceremony, so you can see why I might be full of regret. We got married in stunning Puerto Vallarta, Mexico where we lived and worked back in the early 2000s. We couldn’t have wished for a more beautiful place for our low-key, family and friends–orientated wedding day. When it came to our ceremony we knew that in being atheists, a civil, non-religious ceremony would be top of the list. If I’d even known about the words Humanism and Humanists at the time that we got married, I would have been hunting down a celebrant to marry us, but that’s another story all by itself.
So we set about sorting out our civil ceremony, with the help of our venue and we spent a hell of a lot of time laughing-crying-laughing hysterically at all that needed to be done, just to get legally married, also know as the bullshit bureaucracy. There were the blood tests and other the medical tests, not to mention the pre-marriage wedding course and video on procreation and how to live a family life. I am not joking.
My role as a wife is to be beautiful?
In getting our heads stuck in all of this, this is pretty much where our minds stayed for the duration of the planning. All we ended up thinking about in terms of our ceremony was the fact that a) it was actually going to happen after all of the poking, prodding, and blood-giving we went through, b) it was going to be non-religious, and c) that it was going to take place in the venue of our dreams. And so on the day of our wedding, when the registrar (a lovely women, at the least!) tells you that your role as a wife is to be beautiful and to support your husband and then tells your husband that his role is to be strong and to protect his woman (not even wife!), you kind of begin to wonder how these words (and all the rest that followed in the same vein!) were ever allowed to be said at your wedding ceremony, without you even knowing about it beforehand. And then when you are asked to love, honor, and obey, you start to wonder why you didn’t really know anything about your ceremony at all.
During the ceremony we managed to make a joke out of all of the ever-so-slightly sexist, overly macho, anti-feminist marriage rites, which was the only way we really could deal with it. If we hadn’t had, our friends and family who know us inside out, certainly would have joked about it for us. In fact, most of them did. Thankfully, our ceremony ended on the note that we wanted it to; loud, harmonious and joyful, all the best combos, but no sooner had it finished, for me, the nagging began.
I couldn’t shake off the registrar’s words, nor the sounds of the laughter-not-laughter. You know, the kind of laughter that comes out of your mouth to hide the rest of the emotions that you’d rather not come out during the middle of such a precious event. Yep, that kind. I couldn’t let it rest either that there was also so much I wanted to tell my husband and so much that I wanted to pledge and promise him, which at the very least would have overshadowed everything the registrar had said. It makes me feel sad that I never got to say these things to him or to shout out loud in front of our nearest and dearest how much I loved him and why I was making this commitment to him, which had nothing to do with beautifying myself for him! And there’s nothing I regret more than the realization of not getting to do all of this when it was far too late.
I laugh until I cry about it
My husband thinks, even to this day, that I’m over-reacting. He says that what is most important is that we got married with our loved ones present, not what was said, or on our part, what wasn’t said. But now, even to this day, I still disagree with him. As far as I’m concerned, what was said (and not said) matters more than anything. Especially because what was said was what we attested to and what we attested to was not what we would have wanted to say, if given the choice. We were not invited to or given the chance to say our own vows, which was partly the marriage registry system’s fault, partly our naivety and ignorance, and partly due to the lack of wedding resources that championed owning your wedding day. Nor did we have the chance to express ourselves personally in any way other than our choice of music to start and end the ceremony.
Don’t get me wrong, our ceremony, our being together with all of our family and friends who had flown thousands of miles to support us, was very very special, because they made it special. However, it just did not feel like it was our ceremony. That’s all. It was a ceremony, but not our ceremony. There is a huge difference. On a good day, when I’ve had a glass of wine, I can laugh about it. On a bad day, when I’ve had too many glasses of wine, I can laugh until I cry about it.
If I could turn back the clocks, I would not have been so sheep-like in the run up to our ceremony, accepting everything as it was and not thinking more about what we wanted it to be. I would have not been so goddamned stereotypically British. I would have asked more questions, been more curious and, I suppose, not been so concerned with how the rest of the day was going to be, which enabled me to lose sight of what, in the end, was the most important thing for us.