Nina got married on July 3rd. Nina, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the comments section, is an awesome lady who somehow found my blog one day and started commenting. One thing led to another — you wouldn’t believe how I get after a glass or five of booze — and pretty soon, we were emailing each other. Before Nina trotted off to get hitched, I pleaded that she tell me about how it all went down when she got back from her honeymoon.
And she did. Spectacularly, I might add.
I don’t know about you guys, but I’m kind of obsessed with reading about other people’s wedding experiences. Not so much the play-by-play nitty-gritty, but their perspectives. And Nina has perspective in spades, especially when it comes to dissecting wedding-day expectations — a particularly fitting topic after I posted about my current lack of wedding zen on Tuesday. After a few days spent digesting her words, I asked her if it would be okay if I shared them on my blog. Happily, she agreed, and now you get to read them as well.
So without further ado, I present to you: Nina.
Here are some words that describe the wedding week: ‘joyful’, ‘significant’, ‘beautiful’, ‘lucky’. They made up roughly 20% of the experience. Now words that apply to the rest: ‘stress’, ‘panic’, ‘why-the-hell-are-we-doing-this-again?’, ‘if-you-ask-me-one-more-stupid-question-I-might-have-to-punch-you’, and ‘where-the-hell-is-the-wine?’ Needless to say, I did not attain wedding Zen, but I’m also just not a Zen-type of person. I’m more the kind of person who worries when there is stuff to worry about and worries some more when there isn’t, because well, that just seems suspicious. So take everything I say with that in mind. Here is my story of busted wedding expectations.
I loved planning our wedding. I ventured into wedding-land fairly blindly, but luckily before Knot induced panic could set in I discovered A Practical Wedding and through it, this community of amazing women with blogs full of wisdom and thoughtfulness. Women who are just like me, trying to create honest, ethical, and reasonable weddings — women who just totally GET IT. There aren’t enough words for me to describe how incredibly grateful I am to all of you for carrying me through the wedding planning adventure with confidence and humor. Thank you.
So powerful was my confidence that I also started to believe that wedding-day stress was just another creation of the WIC, heaped upon women who insist the napkins match the invitations and the bridesmaids’ shoes. I wasn’t one of those women. I wasn’t looking for perfection, I simply wanted a wedding to bring everyone together, to build our community. THIS is the stuff that wedding joy is made out of. Unfortunately I may have misunderstood “wedding day joy” to mean I will morph into a different person that day, purely due to other people’s presence and love. Surprisingly, I did not. I was myself — a ball of anxiety who can’t handle endless attention and expectations.
The pure knot of anxiety started to build up in my stomach about two or three weeks before the wedding. Adrenaline coursed through me non-stop and caused all food to taste like stale cardboard. It was like some kind of potent diet drug (let’s call it Adrelin™), but one that would’ve been pulled off the shelves in a matter of days for causing insanity and a number of other frightening side effects. I was starving but couldn’t eat. I was snappy and grumpy as all hell. I was more demanding than I had ever been in my life (lest you think I’m a total monster bride, this just means me actually asking for what I need and was probably an improvement). I managed to keep this under wraps with most people but regrettably, I completely regressed to a petulant teenager with my parents. Not my proudest moments. I was failing my calm bride finals.
The morning of the wedding I woke up hoping wedding Zen had descended upon me. No dice. Ok, so Adrelin™ was in for the ride, and we had to make this work together. The day started with me, my mom, and the girls hanging out, snacking and getting beautified at my house. I got to stay in pajamas and their happy chatter kept me relatively sane. Then it was off to the beach for champagne and photos with John and the groomsmen. It was gorgeous and our photographer was incredibly upbeat and lovely. Unfortunately stress still clouded my brain and I had not managed to shed my insecurities. I didn’t feel beautiful but I faked it, hoping the camera would capture a hidden glow and happiness that my stress over the last few weeks had taken from me (and it did).
Our champagne picnic came to a quick end when we realized it was time for the ceremony and suddenly I found myself walking down the aisle feeling completely unprepared. Somehow, unbeknownst to me the world had continued on while we were getting ready and taking photos and my family and friends had all gathered here and sat down and everything. Seeing this shocked me (perhaps another side effect of Adrelin™ is a return to a 2-year olds mentality where only the things you can see exist). They were all watching me and I was terrified to look their way. I was supposed to be calm and centered and bursting with love. The only emotion I felt was bewilderment. But (and this is the good news) you can block this out. I just focused on John and the wide expanse of sky behind him (and the tiny bit of silvery thread stuck to his black jacket). I could hear words coming out of the officiant’s mouth but they didn’t form into sentences in my head. I do vividly recall everything John and I said though. I remember putting the ring on his finger. I choked up a tiny bit at the end of my vows but I never cried. And I remember realizing that I was still wearing my engagement ring on my ring finger — oops — John just had to add the wedding ring to it. When I went to sign the marriage license, my maid of honor came up and asked if I want my veil back on. I wondered when the hell it had fallen — just how transfixed at staring at John had I been? (I later learned it had fallen just when I walked over to sign the marriage license). Then we walked back and I finally actually looked at everyone and saw their smiling faces. I waved and the first wave of relief washed over me. Finally it was time for the party.
One of my biggest wedding wishes was a packed dance floor and I’m very happy to say this wish came true. I had had this image of the end of the evening where little by little people would have been trickling out, it would just be a small group of drunk friends left, the DJ would play ‘Book of Love’ and John and I would sweetly and quietly dance together, with the lights of the city twinkling behind us, finally being able to let our happiness pour out.
This is what it actually looked like: practically everyone was still on the dance floor dancing their asses off, several bottles of champagne were making the rounds with people chugging straight out of them, the sweet words of ‘Book of Love’ were mostly lost amongst the laughing and the raucous talking around us, and our dance was mostly us looking at each other laughing. It was a different kind of sweet. So after our misguided attempt at romance, which clearly didn’t leave the evening on the right note, I asked for one more song — which was a more appropriate last song anyway seeing as I consider it my song — ‘Dancing Queen.’ And we rocked it. Somehow the two introverts threw a f*cking awesome party.
Happily another wedding day belief proved to be false: the day was not a blur. I swear. Of course the party does get away from you a bit because you’re being pulled in so many directions but I have relatively vivid memories of most of the day. Shockingly (in between seemingly endless hugs), I even had moments to myself. At one point later in the evening John and I both found ourselves hiding in the downstairs kitchen area at the same time. We took 5 minutes to chat with one of the servers (a family friend) and I even lay down on a bench very un-bride like for a moment and it felt like heaven.
But although the day went flawlessly, although nearly everyone was amazing and supportive, although people kept telling me I looked beautiful, I did not overflow with calm bliss and love like all the ads said I would. Maybe I didn’t drink enough. But likely it’s just me. My emotions have never been all that obedient — they never happen at the appropriate, prescribed moments — but I wanted to believe this narrative so badly for my wedding day. Instead, I was myself with my unruly emotions, anxiety and stress partying it up with love and joy and awe. Don’t get me wrong, it was a fantastic party and I am bursting with pride that we did it. I had an amazing time and everyone tells me they did too. But there was also a vague sense of disappointment in myself for letting the anxiety and stress take part. Perhaps I came to expect too much because others’ wedding stories are told through the softening lens of time that highlights joy and fades away the unsightly stress. Or perhaps I heaped the expectations on myself to justify the endless hours and money that went into planning the wedding. I’m sure there are many women out there for whom every high expectation is met and I don’t want to imply that I believe pure happiness on your wedding day is a myth. But expectations about how you will feel are a dangerous thing, because they can cause disappointment even in the face of a wonderful wedding.
So give yourself permission to feel what you feel and to acknowledge that joy might not take the form you’re used to in your less adrenaline-clouded days. I’ve since realized it’s all right that my wedding joy was not experienced through one day of pure bliss, because I’ve collected way more than that throughout the journey as a whole and continue to collect today (the relief and happiness when it was all over was a major payout — sweet, sweet post-wedding Zen!). The wedding really is just one day, and try as we might, one day simply can’t contain all the hope and love we have for our marriage and our community. So go in with an open mind, smile, and soak it in. And grab moments of happiness wherever you can along the way.