I have tried many, many times to write about my wedding. There have been first, second, third, revised, and ultimately trashed drafts. Outlines have been sketched out, thoughts have been hotwritten, pictures have been chosen…and then everything sits on my laptop or in the many journals I keep or on sheet after sheet of looseleaf until I forget about it (or willfully ignore it) and start again. I must have hundreds of versions of this introduction. I consider myself a writer, I’m quite talented at reflecting on my past, and I like talking about important life events.
So why can’t I write about my own wedding?
Here’s the deal: I didn’t love my wedding. It wasn’t the best day of my life, or the happiest day of my life. It wasn’t the super shiny hip and awesome event that I wished would never end. It certainly wasn’t the perfect fairy-tale package I had once been sold by the WIC. There are things I love about my wedding, there are things I hate about my wedding, and there are things that leave me feeling “meh”. This mixed bag of emotions? It makes it really hard to think or talk about the wedding, or to look at photographs, or to write about it.
So, that being said, where do I begin? How do I begin to describe a Very Important Day, but one that was just ‘Okay’?
Our wedding was, both by want and necessity, a community wedding, the kind where friends and family band together to make things happen. Jason and I were recent grads at the time: he was bouncing from theatre job to theatre job, and I was working as a full-time nanny for an amazing family of six. Fantastic work for both of us, but neither job really brought in much income. Once we established what we wanted (church wedding, brunch reception, and a Princess Lasertron bouquet) we asked our community for help. Fortunately for us, we can count graphic designers, illustrators, makeup artists, photographers, bakers, musicians, craft wizards, actors and public speakers, seamstresses, and wonderful people willing to do whatever was needed to get this wedding off the ground among our nearest and dearest. The result? A whole lot of DIY and DIT. The church hall has was decorated in teacups loaned by aunties and old neighbours, and butterflies cut out from years of greeting cards. The bridal party wore handmade dresses and vests. The invitations were lovingly designed by my best friend and Maid of Honour. Makeup and photography? Two friends from university. Music? More friends and my former choir director. Our cake was baked as a gift by my aunt, and my sister made shortbread cookies as favours (along with making corsages and boutonnieres from a Princess Lasertron kit, organizing our seating chart, tracking down addresses, and doing just about everything under the sun and then some). The result was a bit like community theatre: you don’t know how, but everything comes together in the end. It may not always be perfect, and it may not always be pretty, and you never can quite anticipate what the final product is going to be, but it doesn’t really matter, because in the end it works and gets the job done. Very fitting for two people who met in a bilingual collaborative educational community theatre troupe.
There is a downside to using friendors or wedding-elves, and it’s difficult to discuss without sounding like a whiny brat, but I think it’s worth saying: change or challenge your expectations. This doesn’t mean that people wont come through for you, because they will, but it might not be in the way you anticipated or expected. This is the trade-off with wedding elves: I can tell a professional baker that I want my cake to look like the Martha Stewart butterfly cake, and it better damn well look like the Martha Stewart butterfly cake if that is what I paid said baker to make for me. But when your aunt is making the cake? You can give her the inspiration photos, but you might not get the cake of your dreams. And at the end of the day, my relationship with my aunt is far more important than the look of my wedding cake. For someone with an art background and an eye for details, this was a difficult pill to swallow. Altering my expectations does not come easy for me, and planning a wedding in the internet age doesn’t help much, either. I wanted a “blog-worthy” wedding, whatever the hell that means. Thankfully my Maid of Honour kept me in check by reminding me that bunting was not going to make or break my wedding, but it’s hard to get over wanting “all the things”. And it’s hard not to feel like a brat when so many people are working so hard to make something wonderful happen out of sheer love and kindness and generosity. I’m still sorting out my emotions on this topic, if you can’t tell.
Our actual wedding day was kind of a blur. Because we had a morning ceremony, we had to be up EARLY for all the preening and prepping and prettying. I remember having my hair curled, I remember my sisters and girlfriends helping me into my dress, and I remember driving to the church in my friend Jasmin’s van. I remember being exceedingly grateful that the ceremony was taking place in the same church where I had been baptized and confirmed, the same place where I went to Sunday school, youth group, and junior choir, a place of happiness and security. The same minister who baptized me came out of retirement to perform our ceremony. I remember our theatre troupe director whispering “merde” as he passed by us to give a reading from the Song of Solomon. I remember adoring our flowergirl, who was wearing pink press-on nails and a bracelet she bought with her “very own money”. I remember laughing when her older brother, our ring bearer, yelled at us to “SMILE! YOU HAVE TO SMILE!” I remember kissing my brand-new husband.
I also remember fainting in the choir room minutes before our M.C. welcomed us as a newly married couple. I remember being very tired, and very stressed out. It’s sad, but true: the things I remember most from my wedding? All-consuming stress. Being exceedingly overwhelmed. Wanting everything to be over, NOW. I am grateful that we had a brunch reception lasting approximately two hours, because I don’t think I would have made it through the Saturday night dance that is the norm in my family. Our wedding was hard on me, physically and emotionally. You can see it in the pictures…and it certainly affected our wedding night. Without a doubt, it was the worst sex Jason and I ever had. Sexy fun times were not in the cards for us. I cried and then passed out. Not the way I anticipated kicking off married life.
This leads me to a few key pieces of advice: do what you need to do to de-stress. Easier said than done, and but find something that helps you keep your sanity. In my case, it was a massage the week before the wedding, a vial of Xanax in my makeup bag, and afternoon tea for two with Jason while everyone else decorated the church hall. Afternoon tea was a lifesaver (and if you’re ever in Ottawa, Zoey’s Lounge at the Chateau Laurier is worth every penny). My other piece of advice comes from the fact that we were doing things a little differently than certain family members would have liked: Do not seat those family members near the head table or sweetheart table. A certain someone obsessed with how things “should” be done kept on coming over to ask when we would be doing this, when we would be doing that, I really think you need to be doing this, why aren’t you doing that, etc, etc, etc. This did not help my stress level one bit, nor did it help my relationship with said certain someone. You know your friends and family. Plan your seating charts accordingly.
I loved the community aspect of our wedding. I loved being with our nearest and dearest in a place that was one of the main foundations of my childhood and teenage years. I hate that stress and anxiety kept me from really enjoying our wedding, from truly being present. I have a laundry list of wedding-related wishes, things I would change in a heartbeat, but it’s not worth it to obsess, not almost eighteen months and with a baby on the way. I am coming to terms with my wedding. I am coming to terms with my feelings. I will smile at the good and learn from the bad. I will kiss my husband and tell myself that one day, all of this will make an amazing story.
One day. But maybe not today.