|Yup, that's my engagement ring!|
I have a confession to make: I didn’t really want to have this wedding. A year ago, my then-boyfriend (now fiancé) and I were in the pre-engaged state, and we were working hard to earn the status of an engaged couple. We bought marriage books and spent many evenings discussing the hard questions: do we want to have children, how will we support each other and balance our careers when the babies enter our lives, how will we combine our vegetarian and bacon-loving food habits to create healthy lifestyles, how will we incorporate our different family traditions into our own baby family. We self-counseled ourselves into a place where we were comfortable and confident with our coupledom. We were ready to take the next step.
I did not want a surprise proposal, and neither did my boyfriend. Equality has always been central to our relationship, and neither of us was comfortable with the idea of one person having complete control over the timing and the details of such an important step in our lives. But we still wanted a “story” to tell our grandchildren (and inquiring friends and family members), and so we picked a sunny weekend afternoon and headed to a local park to enjoy the weather and to get engaged. We spent blissful hours lying under a cherry tree, talking about us, about our future, about our plans. Finally, unable to wait any longer, I popped the question. And he said yes. And then he asked me the same question, and I said yes. We couldn’t stop smiling through the happy tears. We had our story.
In my mind, we were already married. My thoughts had already moved on to our future – the dilapidated but charming house we were going to buy and renovate, the trips around the world we were going to take, the two kids we were going to raise. To me, a wedding was just a formality, a legal matter. A wedding was not a big deal – we could just go to the courthouse any day and sign the papers, and I’d be happy as a clam. In fact, I suggested as much to my fiancé on several occasions. But he would have none of it. Of all the hard questions that we discussed and agreed on, we completely forgot to talk about the wedding. Suddenly, we weren’t on the same page anymore.
He had a good point, of course. To him, a wedding was not just a legal matter, but a public declaration of our love, a reason to bring our families together and celebrate this day in our lives. It all made perfect sense, but I knew that this “public declaration of our love” would cost us a pretty penny, and I could not justify to my bargain-hunting self spending so much money on just one day in our lives, no matter how much importance that day would hold.
The thing about marriage is that it takes two people to make it happen. And no matter how compatible these two people are, no matter how much they love each other, there will be times when the only way to move forward is to compromise. Having our families and friends be present at our wedding was important to my fiancé, so I gave up on my idea of a courthouse ceremony and we proceed to plan a “real” wedding.
The only problem with the compromise was that my heart wasn’t really in it. We set the budget, created an approximate guest list, and began the venue search. We considered and visited many places, and when we entered the converted firehouse that we would later choose as our venue, I knew instinctively that it was the right place for us. Now that my gut was guiding me through wedding decisions, I hoped that maybe my bridal gene was finally awakening.
But when it came time to wedding dress shopping, I discovered that it was a false alarm. I expected that shopping for a wedding dress would be the best part of wedding planning because there would be no compromises. This was the only part of the wedding that I had full control over. From the very beginning, I steered clear of wedding magazines and twenty-pound poofy dresses that could stand up on their own. All I wanted was something light, short, sassy, possibly white, and definitely affordable. I wasn’t looking for anything fancy, just something that would make me happy. But it turned out to be not so easy to find.
Begrudgingly, I made a trip to the bridal salons, as I considered bridesmaid dresses in white. That adventure quickly dead ended as I discovered that the many dresses I tried on looked better on the hanger than on me. And they weren’t flattering the hanger much, either. Frustrated with the salons, I turned to shopping malls. Surely, Nordstrom or Bloomingdales would carry some pretty short, white dresses, right? And they did. While drowning in the sea of white inside the fitting rooms, I wondered if any of these dresses looked “bridal” enough. In my pursuit of THE dress, I had forgotten that it is the bride that makes the dress look bridal, and not the other way around.
What was supposed to be the most exciting part of wedding planning was turning out to be a nightmare. Not a single dress I tried on appealed to me. What’s worse, I could not motivate myself to be excited about the dress, and in turn, the wedding. My bridal gene was fast asleep, and I was stuck in a perpetual self-guilt-tripping spiral. Shouldn’t I be more into the whole dress shopping thing, wasn’t I supposed to be all excited about wedding planning? But all I wanted to do was get married, and elopement was off the table.
Feeling like a total failure of a bride, I finally broke down and had a heart-to-heart with my man. I explained to him that planning a wedding that I desperately wanted to want (but didn’t) was slowly driving me insane. I suggested that if this wedding was so important to him, he should take the lead on the planning. And he agreed. I finally breathed in relief. To be fair, he was already doing his share of the planning, but now I no longer felt the need to play the role of the obsessive-compulsive bride.
I decided to take a break from wedding dress shopping… and immediately found my dress. I was in a mall when I walked into the store that carried fun and feminine dresses that I was always happy to look at (but not buy because they were slightly out of my price range). Just for fun, I tried on a few dresses, and I swear I giggled like a kid in a candy store. I didn’t purchase anything that day, but one dress stuck with me. It looked nothing like a wedding dress, but it made me happy and that was all that mattered. A few days later, I went online to discover that the dress was on a steep and temporary sale. It was time to whip out the credit card. I bought the dress and it arrived a week later. Pulling it out of the box, I immediately put it on and proceeded to do a happy dance around the house. I felt like a bride. And I made peace with the wedding. We were going to make this happen, and I was on board.