Missing memories: putting a sheet on my head and pretending to walk down the aisle. Marrying my elementary school boyfriend on the playground. Putting the word “Mrs.” in front of names of boys I had crushes on as I doodled in my notebook. Knowing my colors, my flowers, my first dance song, my dream location.
I’m not sure when it clicked that me not having a strong vision of my own wedding was contrary to the fact that women are inundated with not-so-subtle hints that being a bride is this big (hashtag) life goal to aspire to. To measure our worth against. I’m sure it wouldn’t take much research to pull up a huge number to show how the marriage industry is lucrative for advertisers and businesses, that there are countless magazines and websites, consultants, and influencer accounts. The very fact that I can use the word “industry” is telling.
Think, too, of the narratives in books, tv, and movies, about a goal of getting married, of weddings looking a certain way, of the always-a-bridesmaid. Anyone who has a non-traditional wedding is seen as a weirdo,
Tropes are all well and good, but the level to which they are manipulated into expectation is icky. My own recalcitrance to the idea of a traditional wedding is that the tradition part has been so bloated by consumerism, it’s like trying to remember the meaning of Christmas in a world where presents are prioritized. I realize I sound curmudgeonly, and I don’t fault couples who follow the traditional playbook, but it’s just not for me. Although, if I’m perfectly honest (and you know me well enough by now, right?), I might say that I wish everyone would think about the whys and how to make weddings less patriarchal, less consumer-driven, more celebration than ceremony. My assumption when I look at extravagant wedding photos is that the couple chose what best represented their way of honoring each other. I hope that’s true because I want that to be true, and not a sign of couples being swept up in societal expectations. Besides, there are so many ways to honor tradition and love and commitment and I’m certainly not the wedding police.
But, anyway. I’m not describing marriage, am I? I’m describing a wedding. And that’s the piece of the puzzle that has changed for me over time: that it’s possible to look at these connected ideas individually.
My partner and I, for one reason or another (ahem, see above), waited eight years to get married and did so last weekend in pandemic-style: teeny tiny, outdoors, moms and siblings on Zoom, with the promise of a “real” party in the future. It was a perfect way, honestly, to detach the idea of a wedding from a marriage. We could focus on the fact that we were creating our own family, that we were celebrating our love and commitment to each other. It wasn’t about putting on a show or making other people happy or living up to expectations that we didn’t even set for ourselves. It was about the moments of looking into each other’s eyes on a sand dune, looking forward to the future, enjoying the moment. And it was, for us introverts, the perfect definition of a fun day.
I’d like to think we’d have kept it simple regardless of a global pandemic, but it would have been much harder to keep a small guest list, to get married on the beach, to limit the number of moving parts. The point is, that regardless of how big or small, detaching the wedding from the marriage was a key turning point for me in thinking about my own and others’.
I suppose, too, that this lesson can be extrapolated to anything, really: to be mindful and purposeful about the whys and wherefores and embark on a journey that allows you to pay tribute to the truest, most pure version of what you’ve set out to honor.
I’m working my way through this list of words that have changed in meaning for me over time.
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