Oh, you got wedding money??
Beyond the Book: thoughts on wedding planning.
My partner and I are getting married in a little less than a month. We’re both 41 years old and pretty established in our lives and very settled as partners. We’ve been a couple for almost 4 years and friends for about 8. My sons are 20 and 14 and Gabriel and I won’t be having any more kids. This is my second wedding. You’d think that in this stage of my life there wouldn’t be much that a wedding could teach me. And yet, this planning process has been surprising for me in many ways.
Since it’s taking up so much of my brain space lately - so much so that I couldn’t think of anything else to write - I decided to write down some of the surprising revelations I’ve had in this wedding process so far.
It’s so expensive. You may be rolling your eyes at this, especially since I have been married before. Who doesn’t know that weddings are expensive??! But hear me out. Weddings are SO expensive! When I first got married I was 20 years old. We borrowed decorations from a neighbor who had set up a wedding a few days earlier and hadn’t returned anything yet. I bought my dress for $50 at a second hand store. We got our cake for $60 at Albertson’s (it tasted so bad, btw). Our neighbor the wedding planner was also a demolition derby driver, so there was a demolition derby car peeking through the fence of my mom’s yard in our photos. My husband was self-conscious that he was shorter than me so he stood on a small trampoline during photos. Since we didn’t have an actual photographer and this was pre-digital photos time, nobody cropped out the trampoline so he just looked like a dude who really liked trampolines or like trampolines were some weird freaky part of our marriage. We served sandwiches. I said my vows, cut the cake (and immediately spilled red icing all down the front of my dress), and people left within about 20 minutes of the vows being exchanged.
But this wedding is like, real (not that inexpensive weddings aren’t real, but I also really like my partner this time and people are actually happy we’re getting married so it’s much more real on many levels). I’ve always scoffed at people who spend exorbitant amounts on weddings. Why on earth would you spend so much on one evening? Who has new Honda money just sitting around to throw a party with? My dress isn’t scary expensive, the venue isn’t either. We don’t have any bridesmaids or groomspeople. We really aren’t going over the top here. And yet every single day I’m shocked at how much money we’re shelling out. If you have a lot of family or close friends (and we have both) that you want to have at a wedding, and you want to feed them something beyond sandwiches, wow - it’s so much money. The food, the drinks, the photographer, the flowers, the music, the ushers, the suits for the kids, the cake... We better have SO MUCH FUN or I’m going to be pissed.
Wedding planning will have you confronting any trauma around marriage you may have. I wrote previously about this and honestly, just writing about it helped me immensely and I can honestly say that it freed me from a lot of anxiety that I had about entering a marriage again. But it was deep and difficult in ways that I wasn’t expecting, even if I’m so glad for where my partner and I are now that we’ve moved through it.
Wedding planning has had us confronting our issues with gender expectations. From the moment Gabriel and I became engaged, the word “wife” had me feeling very squicky. I just don’t like it. It’s not for me. And as we have been planning what has traditionally been a very gendered and heteronormative event, my partner and I have found ourselves bristling at many of the traditional expectations of gender roles in both the ceremony and marriage itself. Our relationship has never been traditional, and where we have been bumping up against these expectations that don’t fit us, we’re finding unexpected and delightful queerness in ourselves and our relationship that make me more excited to be marrying my amazing partner than the ceremony itself.
The aesthetic matters far less to me than I thought it would. This may come as a shock to any of you who have seen pictures of my home or follow my makeup looks on social media, but I’m surprisingly unconcerned with how the wedding is going to look. I could have sworn I would be meticulous in the details of the wedding. But I’m just not. I don’t even know what my wedding dress is going to look like, ya’ll. I reached out to Jasmine at Jibri, and asked if she could make a custom dress. I picked out one accent fabric and that’s it. I don’t know what colors, what shape, anything. I’ll find out when it gets here. When I discovered that the one fabric I chose absolutely clashes with the colors Gabriel picked for his suit, I just shrugged - which is…not usually how I operate. The wedding planner is handling flowers and decor with very general and vague…feelings…from me. I think I just decided that I wasn’t going to be stressed about a wedding - especially for a relationship that has been defined by its ease and joy. So nothing about how the wedding might look or run is stressing me. It’s so weird. I will look amazing though and my hair, makeup and nails will be on point. I’m not, like, a completely different person.
A wedding planner can’t actually plan a wedding without your input. Ugh. Wouldn’t it be great if you could be like, “PLAN MY DREAM WEDDING” and then go on and live your life and then like six months later you just show up at a beautiful event? Turns out, it doesn’t work that way. Even if you hire a wedding planner because you know you suck at planning, scheduling, answering emails, or remembering to pay bills, you still have to - you know - talk to your wedding planner. A lot. They apparently can’t climb into your head to figure out what you’d want for your big day. Guest lists can’t just form themselves out of thin air. No matter how skilled your planner, you still will have to do stuff in order for a wedding to happen. I hate it.
Guest lists are really stressful for absolutely no reason. Space and budget considerations means that you likely can only invite a certain amount of people to your wedding. You spend SO MUCH TIME trying to narrow down a list of people you have to invite, people you want to invite, and people you can’t afford to not invite. You bargain with your partner to see who can cut what beloved person from the list. You spend forever guessing how many partners and/or kids someone will bring. You have to cut people you really love in order to make space for people that you don’t even like and yet somehow can’t not invite. You have to ask yourself repeatedly if you are “wedding invite” close with someone or if it’s just wishful thinking (because you really want to be close to said person) that will make things forever awkward between you and a friend if you invite them and then they are like, “um…who are you again?” You go through all of that stress and then a bunch of people from the final, agonized-over list won’t be able to come anyways and - even though you swore when you made your list that you would invite people you loved and had you cut the moment space opened up for them - you WON’T EVEN CARE because the wedding is so expensive that each regretful decline saves you a billion dollars. (Note: If you are invited to our wedding and you’re reading this. Please don’t think that we want you to cancel. We love you and want you there if you can be there!)
If you don’t invite people in your family and/or people in your friend circles because you know they won’t come they will still get mad that you didn’t invite them. It’s so weird. Maybe it’s the introvert in me but I’m always so glad to not be invited to things we all know I don’t want to go to.
Weddings are about everybody and nobody at the same time. People like to say that a wedding is “your day” and it’s all about the people getting married. Some insist that for all that sentiment a wedding is really for the family (and to be more exact and really lean into gendered expectations, the mothers) of the betrothed. But as we’ve been planning and getting the details down, and as we’ve had people reach out to us with concerns about their relationships or potential conflicts with other guests, we’ve realized that the wedding isn’t about us or our family or our guests - or at least not about any particular one of us. We want to have beautiful memories and pictures and all that. We want everyone to have a great time. We recognize that this is a once (or twice, or thrice) in a lifetime event. But at its core, it’s a big party. It’s a celebration of our love and the love that we share with our family and community. It’s also too big to ever be all about one or two people - even about the two people getting married! For all its care and planning, it's as messy and lovely immune to the demands of individual ego as a large family dinner, or a child’s birthday party. The fancier the outfit you put the birthday kid in, the more likely that kid is going to wind up with ice cream all down the front of it before you can get any decent pictures. And that will likely the story that makes you laugh and smile in the years to come. A wedding is like that - only instead of a toddler spilling ice cream, it will be a drunk aunt giving a 25 minute rambling speech that you will uncomfortably cringe through and yet somehow be able to quote exact lines from years later. It’s a beautiful thing.
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