“Cephas,” I said, “what is your theme for this year?”
Cephas: “Er, getting married?”
Me: “Mine is ‘Transition.'”
Cephas, ruefully: “Oh, yours is better than mine!”
Me: “Yeah, that’s ‘cos I thought of my answer before I asked you the question.”
Transition feels a lot like confusion. I don’t know what my weddings will be like. I don’t know where I’ll be living after the weddings. Most of all, I have no idea what being married will be like.
I’ve been having wedding dreams—not distressing ones, not “I showed up at the tea ceremony naked and found myself serving cold overbrewed tea to my boss and my PE teacher from primary school” kinds of dreams. In one dream I’m wearing the wrong wedding dress, a dress I’ve never seen before. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a very nice dress. (A champagne ballgown gorgeously embroidered in gold, in case you were wondering.) In the dream I’m not upset to be wearing it. I’m just a bit puzzled. Where did the other one go?
This and other dreams seem to be my brain’s attempts at synthesising everything wedding-related that’s gone into the past year and a half—the wedding inspiration from blogs and magazines, the Excel spreadsheets, the flower consultations, the flight and accommodation bookings—and producing a workable vision of the wedding. Unfortunately, my brain sucks at this. It just doesn’t have a clue.
What I’d like better, and find more useful, is a workable vision of marriage. My brain sucks just as much at this, and it’s had less guidance. (Marriage inspiration would be an interesting thing. I imagine sunshine through a window, a comfortable sofa and a book per person, but presumably it would be different for each couple.) I think it’d be easier if Cephas and I had lived together before, but we didn’t. And it’s not just living together; it’s being a unit—a social and economic unit, bound together by religious sacrament and cultural rites.
All a bit mindboggling. I comfort myself with the thought that even if it doesn’t make sense now, it will make sense in the future, if only because we will fit it all into a framework that makes sense. The wedding is part of that effort—it’s part of one’s lifelong endeavour to impose sense on a bewildering world.
I’ve been thinking a lot about weddings as storytelling. Most people could probably produce a coherent narrative of their lives if asked, even if the narrative is only “nothing much has happened really.” Humans are pattern-seeking machines, and rites of passage are a way that we take the raw material of experience—which is, as they say, really just one damned thing after another—and transmute it into a life. I suppose eventually Cephas and I would have merged into one unit and put each other on our insurance policies and become one another’s first port of call in a storm—it’s happening already—but getting married is a way of outlining that, solidifying it. The wedding is a signal, a programme. It tells us: here’s what happens now.
Of course, to a certain extent it’s up to us to figure out what “what happens now” will consist of. But left to ourselves we might not have got around to it, to doing the work of nailing down what our relationship means and what we want it to mean to ourselves and to everyone else, without the signal, the change in the traffic lights.
A wedding can assist in producing a story of life, and doubtless it will once it’s happened, but I also want a story of the wedding that I can hold in my head now and that’s not happening. At first I was bemused, then I was excited, then I was wary, then I was worried, then I enjoyed it, and then I got bored. Now that we’re two weeks away from the event, I seem to be crying a lot about relatively insignificant things—people always say if that happens you should drill down and find out what serious thing you’re really upset about, but I have drilled down and worryingly I think I really was just upset about that insignificant thing. Imperfect haircuts are upsetting! And that colleague’s brusque email could have done with a smiley!
A series of unconnected emotions and random tears don’t really add up to any sort of decent story. I’m hoping it will all come clear in two weeks. In the meantime, I’ll remember Meg’s advice in the book:
Maybe like me, your life will change hard and fast, in a moment of gritty intensity. Maybe you’ll ride a wave of joy, but at the end just feel like you threw an awesome party, nothing life-changing. Maybe you’ll feel so overwhelmed that you’ll weep for hours. Maybe it will be something totally different and even more unexpected. Whatever you feel, let yourself experience it. It may not be at all what you expected, and that may be a blessing.
See you in a few weeks. Hopefully I’ll have a story to tell.
Photo by: Jessica Schilling