There was one question that plagued me throughout the wedding planning process: Is this going to be worth it?
For two years, I fought to see beyond the dollar signs to the point of the whole thing, which was ostensibly to celebrate with the people we love. We obsessed over costs, trying to strike a balance between cutting corners and finding value. Our guests told us how much they were looking forward to the wedding, but what I felt was pressure to make it worth their while. We got excited, then overwhelmed, then excited again. Last minute details like garbage cans and breakdown fees rocked our budget and I threatened to call the whole thing off in favor of eloping.
Then September came speeding toward us, and we were past the point of no return; of course we wanted to be married, but we were pretty over the wedding and it hadn’t even happened yet. When did the fun kick in? Why were we doing this, anyway? The fact that we were doing more than throwing a party didn’t hit me until the rehearsal. Initially I was distracted by how far I was going to have to walk to get to the ceremony tree. I thought about how my dad was taller than I’d realized, and how my arm cocked upwards to fit in the crook of his elbow.
As we closed the gap between the house and the ceremony site, I finally focused on what was in front of me: my sisters on one side, Jared’s brother and best friend on the other, and my almost-husband in the middle. He was wearing plaid shorts and a striped shirt, a classic Jared combination. I remembered when he’d bought that shirt in Turkey the year after we met, and the shorts from a market in Mongolia; somehow time had catapulted forward and here we were, practicing our wedding.
“All this time I’ve been thinking about the party,” Jared said, as we walked back up the aisle, mock-married. “I forgot all about the ceremony.”
He was right; we’d put very little energy into the ceremony itself, besides my detailed email to the officiant stressing that the phrases “obey” and “man and wife” were not to make an appearance. Despite two years of planning, I suddenly felt unprepared for the following day. I couldn’t even eat my fish at dinner, unreasonably paranoid that I might come down with a rogue case of food poisoning. It felt like the last element I could control, and once the thought crossed my mind I was unable to eat another bite.
On the morning of the wedding Jared and I went for a surf at Sunset Beach, then drove up the road to grab a coconut cake from the display case at Ted’s Bakery. One of my best friends stopped by our rental place to deliver her veil, which she’d worn in Indianapolis three days prior at her own wedding. I hadn’t seen her in eighteen months but it felt like no more than days, and I realized that this was part of the wedding, too.
Shortly before 11AM, I leaned over the hammock and kissed Jared goodbye, then squeezed into the car with my sisters and parents. We made a pit stop at Foodland to see if they sold nail polish (they don’t). Armed with magazines and snacks, we piled into the bridal suite at the venue, and it was then that I realized there was nothing more I could do. Manicure or no, I was getting married. Those tentative plans to find a florist and buy new shoes had never materialized, but the wedding day was still here. The lack of final details wasn’t going to stop anything.
I married Jared in bare feet, having abandoned my sandals at the last minute. I remember squeezing his hands and smiling, trying not to think about the way my legs were sweating in the heat or how weird it was that my direct view was of the groomsmen over his shoulder. I do not remember what I said, except that it all felt right, even the lei exchange that we’d been dubious about. At no point during the day did I think about what the wedding had cost—only that it was happening and I was so happy.
I’d made a critical oversight during the planning process. I’d thought about it as one day, but it wasn’t one day at all. Our wedding had started when we got engaged, maybe even earlier. The wedding was everything from the Skype conversations with friends six months prior, to the moments when I was rendered speechless by the sights of my sister in conversation with Jared’s best man and my mom on the dance floor with his childhood friend. It was having lunch on the beach with my family and catching a glimpse of our wedding guests throwing a football around, twenty-four hours after they’d met each other.
Before the wedding I worried that we hadn’t put enough thought into the details, but on the wedding day I realized that the things that matter happen on their own. I will not remember the planning, but the end result will stick in my mind forever. There is no way I could have anticipated Jared’s spontaneous speech in ASL, or the teary conversation I happened to see between him and my dad afterwards.
“I’ve raised three daughters, but you’re my first son,” my dad signed.
When Jared answered, “I hope I make you proud,” my sisters and I dissolved into sobs.
At the end of the night, I never wondered if the wedding had been worth it; the question answered itself long before we said “I do.”