So, You’re Engaged!

Over the last few weeks at least a quintillion wonderful, creative, intelligent women got engaged in the United States. I have the privilege of being Social Media Friends with at least three of them. This morning at 5:00 AM, I was struck with inspiration to write to those recently engaged women who I admire and on whose social media I lurk. To you I say, it’ll be okay.

If you’re planning a wedding celebration that includes some sort of ceremony and reception to which you plan on inviting more than your immediate family, you can do this! I have the most incredible set of parents in the world and my husband has the other set. We were financially, emotionally, and sometimes even physically supported by our parents during the entire wedding planning process and I still referred to it as, “The Crucible.” I’m not going to delve into the complicated and Capitalistic Wedding Complex, I just want to share some of My [Wedding] Truths to provide some comfort and an unbiased third-party opinion, should you ever need it.

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To begin, I want to share about a decision about which I felt very strongly: bridesmaid’s dresses. As the bride, be reasonable in price and guidelines. If you are meeting those two expectations, tell everyone else to bugger off. That I wanted my bridesmaids to wear whatever kind of dress they wanted, in whatever color or pattern they wanted, in any style they liked, was the only thing I knew for certain from day one of Wedding Planning. Yet, people from my mother-in-law all the way down to random strangers on the street would stop me, absolutely aghast, shake me by the shoulders and stammer, “but–but—THEY WON’T MATCH!” I even got a smattering of, “eh, I would be worried about people knowing I was the bride.” Do not fret. People will absolutely know you’re the bride because, presumably, they watched you walk down the aisle to some substantial fanfare. Here is a photo of the motley crew of bridesmaids I put together.

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Are we even at a wedding? I can’t tell. Who is that lady in the middle? Ugh, I guess we’ll never know.

There will be a lot of people telling you, “It’s your day Jamie, do what you want!” or “it’s the most important day of your life, don’t compromise Maria!” You’ll also get a few, “Annah, weddings aren’t just about the bride and groom.” It’s confusing. You’ll definitely have some vague notions of what you want or don’t want, but probably you just want it to be pretty, festive, and for everyone to have a good time. Remember that, as the Bride, the Patriarchy is weighing on you extra heavy right now. Unless your partner is also a woman, they will not have to deal with the same amount of scrutiny and judgement. To the best of your ability, try to maintain some perspective.

Is your wedding day really the most important day of your life? Maybe. What about the day you and your Partner met? Remember the time you first realized you loved them and it didn’t really matter where you were, as long as you were committed to each other? What about that day in the future when you decide to do something exciting together like go on a trip around the world or start a family? Try to remember that your wedding day is An Important Day, but it’s just a wedding. There are eight billion weddings every Saturday in October in the Ohio, probably. It’s you and your partner that are important. It’s the commitment you’re making in front of friends and family that makes the day Important.

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Maintaining perspective applies to the godforsaken guest-list too. It’s just a wedding. There are people I wish we would have invited but reconciling the various guest lists together was important. The people who didn’t get invited are still our friends! They don’t hate me or [outwardly] begrudge me for not being invited. That third cousin of your auntie might actually not want to travel across state lines but he might feel obligated if he gets an invitation. In two years, they’ll forget what wedding it was and what your partner’s name is. Similarly, that Friend of Your Dad’s from High School probably isn’t going to ruin the event. Go ahead and send him that invite.

Finally, trust in the better nature of your friends and family. One of my bridesmaids told me early on, “these people love you, that’s why they’re acting like this.” Weddings make normally emotionally mature people act in strange and unusual ways. They’re probably coming from a place of love. I had a lot of anxiety during the process and I recommend developing a practice of mindfulness and meditation. Take personal walks. Don’t take it out on your partner. Every family and group of friends is different but there are some universal truths here: lean into your partner and the strength of your relationship for guidance and comfort, trust yourself, and learn to forgive.

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All photos by Mike Rich in Akron, Ohio.


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