In the heat of the moment when the question is popped, all most girls can see is doves flying and rice falling and being whisked off with her one true love into their happily ever after. Weddings are so very, very romantic… until you try to have one.
The fact is that weddings are big business, and even modest ceremonies can cost thousands of dollars. There are so many traditions to maintain: the white dress, the tuxedo, the bouquet, the cake, walking down the aisle, the garter, something borrowed, something blue… and companies know this. Just taking a quick gander through any of the dozens of bridal magazines on the market will make you wonder how anyone manages to do anything besides elope to Vegas.
If all you have ever wanted in your entire life is the cream chiffon dress with bridesmaids in painful pastels and every single relative in your family tree three time removed in attendance and the absolutely perfect fairy-tale wedding complete with Prince Charming, stop reading this right now. Just walk away from the computer and go find yourself a therapist because you might have some expectation issues.
If, however, you kinda get the feeling that all the fluff and grandeur is overrated but you don’t want to get cheated out of the most romantic day of your life (or you want to see what the alternative is those high-faluting expectations are), keep on reading. I have some great things to share.
It’s YOUR Day
First of all, repeat after me: “My fiancé and I are the ones getting married. My mother, my father, Aunt Franny, cousin Velma, my best friend Louie and any other member of friends are family are NOT the ones getting married. What my fiancé and I want is what’s important, to someplace dark and unpleasant with what anyone else wants.”
Now, write that phrase down. Write it down repeatedly, including inserting the appropriate names and relationships. Post it all over your house. Read it every day, especially when your Uncle Dwayne tries to convince you that his buddy One-Eyed Frank from the biker club is an ordained minister and does great weddings (unless that’s your thing).
When someone tries to tell you “what you should do” for your wedding, keep this in mind: they are likely projecting their own ideas and desires onto your experience either because they’re afraid they’ll never get to do it themselves or they feel cheated with how their own weddings went. It is not your responsibility, no matter how much you love these people, to live out THEIR fantasy. This day is for you and your fiancé, and it should symbolize what YOU want it to be.
Tradition is Overrated
While the white dress and tasteless pastries are considered almost standard these days, there are alternatives. You do not have to walk down the aisle, you do not have to feed half the state, you do not have to carry a bouquet and you do not have to mash cake in each other’s faces. You don’t have to do the Chicken Dance or the Macarena and you don’t have to hire a bodyguard to keep Cousin Terry from pummeling your best friend’s boyfriend into a grease stain. In fact, in the absolute most bare-bones terms, you don’t need any of the traditions or ceremonies associated with weddings.
All you need is you, your spouse to be, an ordained minister (or justice of the peace) and two witnesses (depending on the state). This is the fact that Las Vegas chapels survive on. Short of getting married in Vegas, it’s really a pretty boring thing. That’s probably why all of that extra stuff was added on – to make it seem a little more important.
Decide what’s important to you. Do you like ninjas? Are you a German culture aficionado? Did you and your significant other get matching saddles last Valentine’s Day? Whatever your “thing” is is completely okay to bring into your ultimate wedding plan. Chances are, you’ll be able to find a minister of either to appropriate denomination or a non-denomination to fit whatever your hearts desire. Some Justices are even known to make house calls for the right event.
Don’t Forget the Marriage
Think of it this way: you can spend thousands of dollars dressing up in an outfit you’ll wear exactly once, doing things you would normally never do, in order to celebrate spending the rest of your life with someone who fell in love with the real non-tuxedoed-or-ball-gowned you. You could do it, and then you’d spend the first two years of that married life trying to pay off the loan you had to take out just to be able to pay for the nine-tiered cake of doom.
Instead, focus on what is really important about your relationship with each other. If you love sports, run with it. Did you meet at a chess club? Break out the boards for the reception and do everything in black and white. If you are total homebodies with a flair for gourmet food and wine, consider an intimate at-home shindig where you get to make the food yourself.
But most importantly, remember that the wedding is only the beginning of the marriage. So often, we take the high-stress and disaster-prone nature of traditional weddings to be an omen for the actual marriage – “if we’re meant to be together, everything will go perfectly” – but really, it’s just one day out of how many thousands together. Let it symbolize what your marriage is supposed to be – the union of two unique individuals – and develop that idea. What do you two have together that will make the rest of your lives joyful instead of ponderous? How are you going to grow together? How are you going to communicate? What made your meeting so amazing that it has taken you this far?
For my part, I had a pirate wedding. My husband dressed up like Captain Jack Sparrow and I wore a massive purple Colonial ball gown and a huge red wig. Our vows were short, sweet and to the point, and then we drank rum and sang sea chanties until the wee hours of the morning. Our marriage has weathered some pretty rough storms, but as long as everyone does their job and knows how to read a compass, we’ll get through, just like on a ship.