I’m getting married soon. How soon?
As you might expect, I’ve had a lot of thoughts on wedding planning, both in terms of how it’s completely and totally weird and also mundane. There’s so much expectation, both internally and externally, that I didn’t see coming. But at the same time, everyone getting married feels the exactly same way, all the time, as far as I can tell.
I write to process. It’s a thing I do. And yet, I’ve had the hardest time trying to articulate my many feelings about weddings. None of them seem fully formed enough to warrant their own post, but they’re too omnipresent to simply not write about. So here, less than two weeks before the big day, I’m going to share my scattered and nearly incoherent observations on the topic of weddings.
On Bickering with Your Fiance
I am a consumer of romcoms. I know that weddings are supposed to lead to bickering. You fight about the floral arrangements, you fight about the cost, you fight about where your second cousin who smells bad is going to sit — it’s a thing. And while it’s not something I was particularly worried about, I did wonder if getting married on a short schedule and a short budget was going to lead to more bickering. If perhaps our relatively calm and communicative relationship would show wear when it came time to bring our finances and plan this huge party together.
We’re not really fighters anyway. Sure, we disagree and we get annoyed with each other periodically. But the wedding has not led to any more fighting or disagreements. Fear not, Past Ashley. It’s going to be alright.
On the Length of Engagement
I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this, but we’ve had a short engagement. In early February we were having a conversation about the future and where we were headed — plans were being finalized for him to move in, we’d been talking about getting married in an abstract sense, and he sort of just drops in that he figures we’d be married by our anniversary. The one a little more than five months away.
While neither of us is terribly keen on long engagements, I’m not going to pretend that throwing together a wedding in five months is ideal. It helps that we didn’t have any friction on what we wanted, and that we were going a semi-non-traditional route with the whole thing. But occasionally I felt like there was no time at all to get all these decisions made, because the wedding was less than a year away.
Conversely: it feels like a lot of waiting. There’s times where 200 decisions have to be made and all of this stuff needs to be in order right this very second, followed by weeks of twiddling your thumbs and letting this huge wedding thing loom out above and ahead of you.
On Budgets, the Costs of Things, and Prioritizing
The first thing I did when we decided we were getting married was to make a budget spreadsheet. I did reading, I made estimates, and I sent emails. I had a low budget and a high budget for 15 different line items. I knew we were going to have to throw it together bit-by-bit, paycheck-by-paycheck — planning was tantamount to making it work. (We’ll see if it, um, actually works.)
And yet seven more line items appeared before July came upon us. Do not mistake your DIY, low-key, getting-married-in-the-park wedding for one that will be inexpensive. It may be inexpensive compared to the average wedding, but it will still cost you a lot more than you think it will.
That said, the best advice I ever read about weddings is that you have to choose what matters and cut corners on the things that don’t. Things that matter for us? Food. Beer. Photography. Things don’t matter? Fancy invitations. Flowers. Elaborate decor. We’re literally getting married outside so that nature can do all the heavy lifting for us in the decor department.
On Thinking You’re Going to Be Chill
To be fair, I don’t know why I thought I was going to be a chill bride, because I’m not a chill person. I panic, I over-plan, I obsess, I demand perfection of myself — I am literally the antithesis of chill. August certainly didn’t anticipate me being chill. (And told me as much.)
It hasn’t been terrible, though. I feel like I’ve only had one intense bridezilla moment (wherein I flat-out told a guest that their planned plus one could not come to the wedding; said guest was cool about it), and just a lot of smaller instances of being freaked out. I’ve dominated our social group’s collective attention span for the past few months, but they’ve been gracious about it. I appreciate that.
I did, however, have a few weeks in June where I just stopped sleeping regular hours. I got through an awful lot of the Gilmore Girls on Netflix, though.
Until yesterday, I spent most of July too focused on moving August in and getting his apartment cleaned up for inspection to actually be freaked out by our impending nuptials. Now that we’re done there, though, it’s back to laying in bed, sending myself emails about cake at 1AM.
On Thinness, Expectations of Beauty, and Other Weird Feelings about Looking a Certain Way
Thinness is a huge part of the wedding industrial complex. The phrase “wedding diet” is bound to be uttered by someone, if you talk about weddings long enough with people who don’t know you better.
Despite that fact that I generally know that I don’t perform weight-related magic on deadlines — every attempt to give weight loss a deadline has been emotionally fraught and generally unsuccessful — there I was in February, saying, “Well, this meshes perfectly with my deadline to stop dieting for my birthday. I may as well also give the ol’ goal weight one last try.”
Spoilers: I am still the same pants size as I was in February, and my weight has probably held steady. I don’t know. I decided a month or so ago to simply stop weighing myself until after the wedding, and I haven’t even decided when I plan to get on a scale again.
The wedding dress I bought in February fits perfectly. I look lovely in it — and in fact, am generally pleased with my size on the day-to-day — but I am not small. There is a part of my brain that still had “smallness” as a thing to aspire to when I get married. Because, in my head, there was a goal and I was supposed to achieve it. I am supposed to look perfect. The wedding is supposed to be perfect. I have failed if one of those things is not true. It’s bullshit, but it’s the set of logical tools I was made with.
I’ve come to terms with that fact that perfection and smallness are not synonymous (again; it seems like I have to constantly relearn this) and that perfection is not the goal of living anyway. Having a fun wedding, one where two people in love sign a contract that legally obligates them to share their ice cream — that’s the goal.
On Traditions and Non-Traditions
We’re not having the most traditional wedding on the planet, but we’re also not straying too far from the beaten path. We’re getting married in the park, throwing a potluck dinner with burgers and hot dogs, eating cake, and dressing up a bit. The aesthetic is basically “low-key Pinterest barn wedding,” and everyone is pretty excited.
That said, every time we ditch a tradition, there’s questions and concerns and checking in to make sure no one feels left out. We decided to keep our wedding ceremony private; our parents are coming in as witnesses. We don’t plan to do toasts or cake cutting. Really, we threw out as many traditions as possible that involved a lot of people staring at us at the same time. It sounds ghastly.
This is how I learned that my mother was disappointed we wouldn’t cut the cake together. (We conceded to having our picture taken with the cake.) Or how weird a handful of our relatives found it that the invitation was to the reception, rather than the ceremony itself.
It’s also been a learning experience in seeing which things matter to each other, and which things the other downright dislikes. That said, August doesn’t have a lot of opinions on weddings. The first time we even talked about it was after a friend’s wedding. He was drunk and said, “I looked around and thought, ‘Oh god, is she going to want to do all of this? Because I don’t want to do all of this.'”
(This was also the first time I told him that I loved him. We were in a hotel bed the size of a small island, it was some time after midnight, and we were both extremely drunk. He then grabbed my phone and texted my best friend about it. I tell this story as often as possible because I very much don’t want to forget it.)
On Stage Fright
Remember how I mentioned earlier that being stared at by people while doing feelings stuff sounds ghastly? Yeah, I’m a stage fright kind of gal. I’ve been working my wedding vows since April, and I’m still sitting here fiddling with the most recent draft, irked with the opening and closing. The middle is great (or is it too practical?) but there’s not enough bunch, enough weight to the opening and closing (or is there?).
See, we’ve been joking about what our wedding vows would be since the get-go; it’s been one of my favorite parts of wedding planning. All of these silly jokes make the actual reality of having written vows much less nerve-wracking.
There’s no logical reason to be nervous about wedding vows. There’s nothing in mine that I haven’t said before, at one time or another — if not with words, then with sentiment and action. But I’ve discovered that going in on my own steam, with my own words, while my boyfriend, parents, and son all watch, has me quite anxious.
On Labels and Self-Categorizing
This past weekend my girlfriends and I went out on my bachelorette party. We got dressed up, I was adorned in a veil with penis sequins and a “bride-to-be” sash, and out we went. We started at a fancy bar to match our fancy outfits, we ended up at 1:30am in The Burger Stand with four different baskets of french fries, gossiping and reaching over each other to eat.
One stranger offered to buy me a drink, one of my friends bought me a few drinks, we took a single shot out of our penis shot glasses, I ran into a bride in a hotel bathroom who offered her congratulations, and a table of strangers applauded.
It was great. It was also the first time people started referring to me as a bride, and I myself realized that yep, I am a bride. I’d checked it on our marriage license paperwork, but it didn’t sink in until I was looking at myself in a mirror with the word “bride” on my chest.
I have a somewhat uncertain relationship with labels anyway, but there was something simultaneously nice and weird about the moment. I think it comes from the same place as trying to be a “chill” bride — it becomes a thing where I’m trying not be a bride at all, because “bride” is in many ways synonymous with “demanding” and “difficult.”
It’s not just me, at least. August and I were talking about this the other day, and he does the same thing. Neither of us is particularly good at using wedding words. He said, “I’ll tell people, ‘Oh, I’m marrying my girlfriend. We’re having a party after the ceremony,’ and then realize the words are ‘fiance’ and ‘reception’.”
Weddings are weird. Wedding feelings are weird.