The dress I wore when I got married nearly a year ago was purple. A rich, not-quite-aubergine, not-quite-violet purple frock made by my mother to outfit me as a bridesmaid for my dear friend Catherine’s wedding.
Strapless (eeek!) Semi-matte satin. Full skirt to the knee.
For Catherine’s wedding, I accessorized with a bouquet (my mother made that, too), cute peep-toe shoes, and giant rhinestone hoops that got caught approximately 14 million times in my giant wedding hair. That was the first time I’d ever gotten an updo done professionally, actually. I even wore fake lashes, which miraculously didn’t slide into moustache position while we danced the night away.
For my wedding, I wore the same dress, the same shoes, a Jackie O-esque black cardigan, and a black fascinator borrowed from my stylish friend, Tamsen. I forgot to put on earrings, or jewelry of any kind beyond my wedding rings. I did my own hair in a French twist. I had a bouquet concocted by my mother, again, only this one was put together in the bathroom of their hotel suite with a jumble of stems we’d picked up at the supermarket a block away.
If you’d told me ten years earlier that I would end up wearing purple to my wedding, I’d have told you that you were insane… and then asked you who the heck I ended up marrying, because where was he?
But the purple was just one more unexpected thing in an unexpected run of years. I didn’t expect to meet Gradon the way I did, to have things work out how they did, to move where I did, to have the job I do now… nothing. By the time you get to “purple dress” in that list, it’s a zero on the life change scale.
Our wedding day culminated in a fantastic dinner with our immediate families at Brasserie Jo, a favorite restaurant of ours around here. The whole thing was overseen by a local chef we love, Nick Calias. He put together a series of courses that everyone — from my slightly picky dad on down to my very picky 13 year-old stepson — loved, and raved about for months after. From there, I took off with my groom to eat oysters and drink a glass of (complimentary!) champagne, just the two of us, at a restaurant nearer to our neighborhood.
All of this was lovely. Just as we’d hoped, really.
But I still firmly believed at that point that this was (drumroll!) Wedding, Part One.
Wedding, Part Two would involve more folks joining us in town to celebrate with us and our friends here. This would be the event with the decor and the dress and the dinner (really!). My traditional “bride moment.”
I can honestly say that 90% of my desire to do the Part Two came from wanting to share my excitement and the blessings in my life with so many people who weren’t there the day we got married.
The other 10%? Well, for years I’d watched my mom sew and alter countless wedding dresses for ecstatic (neurotic, but ecstatic) brides — many of which were close friends of mine. My dad the minister has performed more weddings than he even remembers. I’ve helped dozens of friends arrange their big days. I’ve been to dozens of weddings, just as a guest. Weddings are a reliable constant in my life, and a happy one, at that.
So I guess I thought I’d have a “weddingy” wedding.
And as much as I was thrown for the happiest loop ever by the love I’d found, that part of me was still lurking, quietly squirreling away photos of pink peonies and lacy veils and images of backyard paper lanterns glowing over tables full of happy, glass-clinking guests.
I don’t doubt that the whole wedding thing is more of a nightmare than a dream for some women I know. They’re not interested in the time it takes to plan one, the “traditional” expectation to put something showstopping together from the time they agree to get hitched, or combing through tulle cupcake dresses to find their own, perhaps-not-so-unique be-sequined ensemble. Not to mention that wedding traditions outside of Western society are remarkably different… and there are people around the world (and around the corner) who can barely afford to eat, let alone throw a party.
I can deny that I’m conventional and selfish and predictable, but there you have it: I am.
And while my desire to celebrate with people I love wasn’t (isn’t!) a bad thing, it soon became an impractical notion in ways I couldn’t ignore.
People had no time off for the taking. People were having babies. People had other commitments, several years in the making. People couldn’t afford to travel to, or stay for very long in our expensive little city.
The expenses around the event were prohibitive, too, especially with all our existing kid-related and life-related financial commitments. Sure, everyone has those… but.
These realities are likely why I couldn’t bring myself to nail down the details and force the occasion, even as I dreamed about what it might look like.
But nail them down I did, just last week. And by nail them down, I mean I let them go. I set them firmly down, anchored them to the floor as best I could, and walked away.
We’d gotten ourselves a new car because Gradon’s commute is about to blow up. The backyard (my venue!) was proving to be difficult to get into party-ready shape. More friends and family were telling us it was a no-go for them every week. I had sent emails off to table and chair rental companies, all of which were inexplicably ignored. Catering (or making everything myself) was going to be insane, if I was going to give people the kind of food I’d want them to have. And on a purely attire-related note, my mom — the only person who could have put a white dress on this girl that she would truly love — was 3,000 miles away. I didn’t even own a tape measure to tell her what size it should be.
These things have all happened to other brides, I know. Wedding planning is stressful! Half of the reality TV programs running today are dedicated to showing how bonkers people go when they try it.
But this “bride” was already a Mrs. and well on the downward slope towards 40, and couldn’t justify all that angst for a vague dream of a day. It was time to ceremonially recycle my issues of “Martha Stewart Weddings” and get over it. And most importantly, to believe to my core that my real wedding wasn’t remotely less than the wedding in my head.
Besides, I ended up married. That’s the primary gauge of wedding success, right?
So I jettisoned it. We jettisoned it, actually… though I think my husband was already of a more practical mind about the whole thing.
Life is a constant process of setting and adjusting expectations. Rolling with what comes, and seeing how it lines up with what you want, or think you want. There are no guarantees, no unbreakable plans, no givens. The world doesn’t stop turning because your path looks different now than it did when you set out. And heaven knows, most of the things we build up into big deals are really just small deals that cast giant shadows.
At my wedding, I wore a purple dress I’d worn before.
I did my own hair. I forgot my earrings. My heels sunk into the wet grass by the pond in Boston Public Garden and my shoes were ruined. I looked a bit tired… and by a bit, I mean I looked exhausted. I was full of butterflies about our families spending time with one another. There was a bunch of lint on my sweater that showed up in the photos everyone took. I don’t like how I look in any of the pictures.
But it was the best, most precious day of my life so far. I was handed the world when that ring went on my finger.
No party could top that.
So I won’t try.