I’m at the age when pictures of the weddings of friends and friends of friends are almost a daily feature on my Facebook feed. I was looking through some of these recently when it hit me—that all too common feeling that strikes the planners of weddings and followers of wedding blogs. I wanted someone else’s wedding.
The bride and groom, acquaintances from university, had planned their wedding in about four months. It was the simplest of simple weddings—it took place in an undecorated hall; the bride wore a red cheongsam and a tiny white birdcage veil; there was a desserts table laden with homemade cakes baked by loving friends, some of whom had flown in at short notice from distant places to be there. At the end of the day the bride and groom put on their helmets and departed on bicycles.
I don’t envy huge frilly weddings, as much as I enjoy attending and looking at pictures of them. It’s the simple ones that make me side-eye our plans for a bi-continental, guest-list-in-the-hundreds, two-week wedstravaganza. Oh, to have had the boldness to be simple! I say to myself. Why didn’t I have a bare-bones ceremony at the registrar’s office, followed by an unfussy meal at a local restaurant attended only by close family and friends? How did I end up entangled in the sort of event that requires me to know how to pronounce “boutonnière”?
Planning not only one but two traditional weddings seems to me to involve a lot of pure nonsense. There are all sorts of things I figured were optional—the veil, the traditional long white wedding dress, the tiered cake, the specially hired fancy wedding car, being escorted down the aisle by my dad. I think of wedding traditions as comprising two types—”stuff you’ve just made up” and “actual traditions”—and it seemed obvious to me that these were all the former rather than the latter. I was happy to jettison them.
Except, turns out, the wedding’s not just about me and what I’d like to jettison. It’s also about a lot of other people whom I’m rather fond of, and who have strong feelings on all the things I’d like to jettison. What I think of as “stuff you’ve just made up” might be a really vital tradition to people I love, such that they’d feel something was missing if you had a wedding without it.
I suppose the alternative wedding blog party line would be: “It’s your day—do what you want!” But I’ve had a lot of wants to do with the wedding, some of which were totally random and ultimately fleeting (*cough* elephant topiary *cough*), and some of which have caused squabbles and sobbing. What I need, though, and the whole reason I’m going through with the thing in the first place, is simple.
1) I want Cephas and me to get married in a way that feels meaningful to both of us.
2) I’d like to make my family and friends happy.
There are lots of reasons why simple weddings are lovely and appropriate and desirable—and there are lots of good reasons why I’m not going to have one. Why my weddings, comparatively fussy as they are, will be just right for us. Cephas wouldn’t feel married without a Catholic ceremony; I wouldn’t feel married without a traditional Chinese ceremony; and we both want to celebrate with our relatives and friends, including the ones who wouldn’t be able to fly the 10,000 km between our respective countries for the event. And those relatives and friends have expectations—some of which I’ve fought, much more of which I’ve gone along with.
APW is all about giving yourself permission to dig in your heels and fight for what really matters for you—but also about it being OK to give in, to do the expected thing. Because frankly, life is too short to spend too much time arguing over the hemline of a dress, or the benefits of a selection of ordinary-sized cakes vs. a single multiple-tiered cake.
So I’m letting go of my frustration over what feels to me like nonsense. If it makes people happy, it isn’t nonsense. My mom loved having an excuse to spend weeks hunting for a reproduction nyonya tea set we could use for the tea ceremony. Strange as it seems to me, given that the custom is no part of our cultural traditions, it makes my dad happy to get to walk me down the aisle. Sure, none of this is necessary. But nothing about weddings is absolutely necessary. They’re just a nice flourish. Wouldn’t a flourish-free life, a life of pure necessity, be a bit grim?
The weddings I’m going to have may not be the simple, stripped-down wedding part of me secretly thinks is the coolest kind. But that’s all right. They’ll be messy and unoriginal and boring at intervals, but they’ll be what we need.
Photo: Emily Takes Photos