When I was a little girl, I suppose I imagined my wedding. I mean, all little girls in late-20th century America did. But mostly when I thought of my wedding, I imagined the vows, and exchanging rings, and my dad walking me down the aisle – the stuff that’s still most important to me.
We did own a dress-up veil with a beaded, elastic headband. But my only memory of it was putting it on our ever-gracious, red golden retriever, Molly. (In the pictures, she’s also wearing a hot pink bandanna as a necklace. She was always very fashion conscious.)
But while I was busy trying to imagine concrete features onto the abstract blur waiting for me at the end of the aisle, I wasn’t thinking about my dress (at least not beyond ‘it will be white’) or the cake (though I was certain it would not be white). And I never gave much thought to food or favors or centerpieces or the band.
I wanted to get married, but I never cared all that much about being a bride.
Enter The Wedding Industry, Stage-Left. When I logged onto TheKnot, the night I got engaged, I had 43 items overdue on my check-list.
Then, learn the lingo before setting foot in a dress salon. Read up on silhouettes, necklines, trains and hues that might flatter you. The season will also affect your choice.
When I went to try on my dress for the first time, the sales lady practically ran to grab the most beautiful cathedral length lace veil (that I did not buy because it cost more than my dress) and pin it to my head behind a vintage headband (that I did buy because shiny).
She was bubbling with excitement, pinning and arranging and checking my reflection in the mirror. When she’d finished, she stepped back and sighed, “oh you just look so beautiful. Don’t you just feel like a bride?”
I tried to mimic her boundless smile and happy-salesy gushing. But it felt completely disingenuous.
It’s a dress. It’s a pretty dress, and it has pockets, which I think is really awesome. But at the end of the day, I’m going to wear it once. And then I’m going to stuff it in the back of my closet (once I have it preserved of course).
I keep joking that I feel like a terrible bride. Which is mostly a joke. But it’s also a confession. There’s a very real part of me that feels like I’m doing this all wrong.
“Equip yourself with pens that you like to write with. Stay away from the cheap supermarket variety that make big ink blobs when they’re overused. [I have used ‘cheap supermarket’ pens my whole life, and never had that problem]… Mont Blanc makes some impressive models, if you’ve got the cash. Go ahead and have it monogrammed, as long as you’re in we’re-married-now mode. [Sure, go ahead. With the wedding over, your money is practically worthless now.]”
And I can easily point to advice like that and laugh, because it seems beyond ridiculous to me (like anyone will ever know what kind of pen you used to write thank you notes). But I have a harder time shrugging off the enormous presumptions that rain down from wedding magazines and pinterest and photography blogs and facebook posts.
Because those beautiful pictures simply do not convey the enormous amounts of money and the hours upon hours of work and the sheer ingenuity it takes to pull off something like that. I have never been a girl who wanted or valued a big, fancy wedding, and I was still a little blind-sided by the weight of expectation and the waves of anxiety.
Because I don’t have $50,000 to toss around (I know, shocker – I’m not secretly wealthy, guys). And if I did, I can pretty much guarantee that I wouldn’t spend it on this one day. The party’s just not that important to me.
Look for a venue that’s both glamorous and bold. Opulence is key. Try an ornate ballroom with built-in decor that makes you feel as if you’ve stepped into the gold-gilded Palace of Versailles. Other options include a historic mansion, the atrium of an exquisite art museum or the dining room of a grand estate.
We carefully chose where to spend our money on the things that were most important to us, and for us that didn’t include a big sit-down dinner or an expensive dress. And even though we made every decision after much deliberation, with our family and our guests and our personal values in mind, I still feel the need to justify what we aren’t doing.
And yet, I’m constantly justifying the money we are spending to myself. Because I don’t know if I think it’s okay to splurge for the extra gorgeous photos or have a diamond ring or rent tablecloths, so that people don’t have to look at regular old tables.
I worry sometimes that I’m just flowing along, unthinking, in a culture that says “Buy! Buy! Now! You deserve it! You deserve happiness! And diamonds mean happiness!”
I keep thinking of all the other valuable things we could do with The Wedding Budget, and I wonder how much of this is really beneficial, to our family, to our relationship, to our community.
9-11 months: envision your invitations
6-8 months: work out invitation wording and pick a style
research various invitation
finalize invitation wording
order invitations (don’t forget extra envelopes)
4-5 months: book a calligrapher
address those invitations!
2-3 months: pick up your invites
send them out promptly at the 3-month mark
-TheKnot.com To-Do List
Obviously, we decided to have a wedding, and to splurge on a few things. And I really, truly couldn’t be more excited. But as the day draws closer, I have to admit that The World of Weddings has been a difficult one for me to navigate.
I cringe at terms like “happiest day of your life” and “it’s your big day/ it’s all about you” as though a wedding were merely an excuse to throw a party in honor of my existence rather than a celebration of two people and their families and the covenant they are making.
I don’t want to lose sight of that. I don’t want the sacred, beating heart of this event to be lost in the shenanigans.
I don’t want to forget what Jonathan Storment said: that weddings are meant to be a sign-post, that they are meant to remind the community of their own vows and to point toward a future reality.
A reality in which people might actually love each other like those In Love – where out of love and mutual submission, we each place the other above ourselves, where their joys are our joys and we share their pain as if it were our own.
Because a wedding is never about the bride, and it’s not about money, and it’s certainly not about centerpieces. It’s not even about the couple, not really. It’s a symbol, a metaphor for what God wants to do with the world.
But truth be told, the night after I bought my dress, as I was skyping with David, I imagined, for the first time, walking down the aisle in The Dress. And the face waiting for me at the end wasn’t a vague disembodied Someone. It was a 6’2″ man with gorgeous blue eyes and a beard I never pictured.
And I started crying, just a little. Not metaphorically resonant tears of God’s love for the world, just grateful tears for my own little corner of it.