I was with my partner for over five years when we decided to get married. Being the impulsive person I am, I said f*** it, let’s do it next month. I sent out invitations to aunts and cousins with a disclaimer saying that we understood it was Thanksgiving time and short notice, so there would be no hard feelings if people couldn’t make it. We had a small, immediate-family-only ceremony. This part was great.
The following weekend, we had a larger (but still small at only fifty people) reception. The reception was awkward as hell. It was mostly my family from eight or so hours away. People sort of talked and mingled, but mostly just sat and waited for the food to show up. The food was late. Ninety percent of the people left early. My dad tried to force people to make speeches. We had our first dance and it was so painfully awkward we stopped early.
Part of me says that it’s fine and I’m overreacting based on ingrained assumptions of what weddings are “supposed to be.” Part of me says that I’m a shitty person for throwing a weird, awkward wedding that people obviously didn’t enjoy but felt obligated to come to. I don’t want ANY of these feelings. I want to feel like the things I read where people say, “It was the happiest day of my life, I felt surrounded by love and joy, all the little details didn’t matter at all in the end.” I don’t feel like that. I think back to that reception/party and cringe.
So, how do you come to terms with a wedding day that feels more like of an embarrassing memory than a beautiful day filled with familial love?
My fiancé and I know that we don’t want a large or particularly traditional wedding, but even the “alternative wedding” resources online don’t feel quite relevant to our situation. My fiancé is shy, and while I’m not, I am definitely an introvert. Neither of us is crazy about being the center of the show, or about baring our souls in public (or hamming it up), even among our close friends and family. My fiancé is mortified by the idea of reading vows aloud (or even having a ceremony), dancing, or doing essentially any performance-based wedding activities. We want our day to feel personal and laid-back, but we’re not very artsy or aesthetically talented, so a lot of the design-focused DIY advice out there doesn’t feel right either.
All that said, I’m worried that if we completely go with our temptation to be laid-back, a-traditional, comfortable, unstructured, and never be the center of attention, we’ll end up basically pretending that it’s not a wedding, and not even have a very fun party to boot. I want us to be comfortable and have fun, but still organize things in a way that make it not just like every other day and not boring and frumpy for our guests. Any advice?
Dear both of my Anons,
I paired your questions together because, whether you realize it or not, I really think you’re both hoping that I’ll be able to tell you the impossible. How do you turn awkward embarrassments into glittering happy memories? How do you avoid making wedding day decisions that you might later regret?
Damned if I know.
Here’s the deal, guys. We’re all told that the wedding day is at least “the most important day” of our lives if not “the best day” of our lives. Neither of those is necessarily true. And even if it does turn out to be one of the more important singular days you’ll experience, that doesn’t guarantee it’ll be one of the best. Luckily, the one doesn’t have anything to do with the other. It can still be an important day, even if it utterly and absolutely sucks. It can still be an important day even if it doesn’t even “feel” like a wedding at all.
We’re led to believe that this one day is IT. It’s our one and only chance to have some special, magical experience with your spouse and/or family and/or friends. And in that moment, we have this checklist of things we’re supposed to experience—like feeling like the most beautiful woman in the room, or this near palpable showering of love from our community. 1) Even with the best planning, it doesn’t always work that way, and 2) luckily, this isn’t “IT.” If you miss out on this moment, the rest of your life will be dotted with glittering special times that might even be more special or more important than your wedding day. Gasp.
AND, they might not even be the ones you expect.
There are lots and lots of experiences that are supposed to be magical, monumental, game-changing seconds in our lives. But, you know, I had a really shitty first kiss. Honestly, it still makes me cringe. And other folks don’t have the sparkly engagement story that’s expected, or the anticipated response to name changing or whatever else. Those moments that are supposed to be like the movies let us down sometimes. But, usually there are other sneak attack moments that are better than we could have imagined.
To my first friend, try to get yourself to a place where you feel okay saying out loud, “I hated my wedding,” and not feeling like you need to cushion that statement with, “Weeell, the details don’t matter, at least I’m married…” No, girl! Your wedding SUCKED. It sucked. Feeling that way is not a reflection on you, and you know, the fact that it really did suck is not a reflection on you, either. Own that your wedding was awful. I’m not kidding. The ideal situation here isn’t to gloss over and change your negative feelings into positive. It’s to process your feelings to the point that when people ask about your wedding, you can tell them just how terrible it was and then laugh about some of the things that went wrong. Because, you know what will probably happen? They’ll share something terrible about their wedding back (I’m looking at you, commenters—back me up here). And little by little, talking about it and laughing about it and commiserating really does heal that memory. It doesn’t fix it, no. But it’ll help you heal from it, I swear. It’s insane how much less terrible things are when you say them out loud.
I talked a little bit about how to process what you’re feeling over here, and one of the things I suggest is to replace that memory. What did you miss out on that you’d hoped for? A big, jolly, belly-laughing, room-shaking, family-and-friends-everywhere sort of party? There are still more reasons to have parties! Birthdays and housewarmings and anniversaries, for starters. Shoot, I’d go to a party celebrating Tax Day if there was food and music. If what you need is to have a moment where you love on your community and they love on you—there’s still time! Parties will still happen. (But it could just possibly be that your family is really awkward—no judgment, I’m there with you—and no matter what you do or how well you host, you’ll round out the night wondering, “What the hell?!”)
My second friend, I’m going to ask you something similar. What are you afraid you’ll miss in your wedding? You already listed the components that make you feel uncomfortable. Which are the ones that you’ll be sorry without? Which will make it feel “like a wedding” to you? I’m going to be frank, I’ve been to a bunch of weddings, and at each of them it wasn’t the speeches or the garter toss that made them feel wedding-y. But I guess it all depends on what you’re hoping for out of the thing.
The one caution I would add is I agree that it’s a great idea to not step into the limelight if it makes you uncomfortable. But, being the bride at a wedding is like being the birthday girl at the party. Even if you’re not center stage, everyone is there because they love you. And that loving on you, while a little awkward even for those of us who are less shy, also feels pretty awesome. So, sure, skip the vows. Maybe have a short ceremony where someone says a few words about marriage and someone else sings a nice song while you sit in the front row with the guests. Nix all of the garters and bouquets and cake cutting things. But realize that your friends want to love on you and celebrate you and that can be just as lovely as it is sort of squirmy and awkward. I’d even go so far to say it’s what makes the day wedding-y.
It’s impossible for me to tell you how to avoid regretting your wedding choices—both of you. But luckily, it’s not the only chance you get at a big, special, important day.
Team Practical, did you have any wedding regrets? If you’re not yet married, how do you confidently make decisions to avoid regret?
Photo: Gabriel Harber.
If you would like to ask Team Practical a question please don’t be shy! You can email Liz at: askteampractical [at] apracticalwedding [dot] com. If you would prefer to not be named, anonymous questions are also accepted. Though it really makes our day when you come up with a clever sign-off!