Wedding-wise, it's been a hard few days for me. In a lot of ways, we're finally diving into planning our wedding. Yes, we already have a venue. And yes, I already have a dress. But since our wedding is scheduled for April 2011, we gave ourselves a reprieve on active planning until after New Years (though obviously I dove in and started researching and writing my little heart out before then.) I got acquainted with the wedding world, found some context, and feel comfortable that we can talk through the important questions with an overall vision and purpose in mind before we're up to our eyeballs in must-have BS. We're finally feeling ready and eager to design our own list of must-haves.
However, now that we're finally at this stage, I broke down with a few days of serious resentment that I can't ditch this whole wedding thing altogether. Despite all of these blog entries and all of this thinking about weddings, I never really wanted anything like this in the first place. For us, "this" means a 150 person ceremony and celebration. It means at least $20,000 in expenses, even though we're trying to keep it simple and we're trying to focus on the enduring, meaningful aspects of the wedding instead of the fluff. It means over a year of difficult and emotionally consuming discussions, negotiations, and compromises about what constitutes meaning, fluff and value. And so, just as I started looking this expensive year-long planning beast in the face, I got exhausted and wanted to slink away from it all.
My dream wedding looks nothing like the event we're trying to lovingly build. In fact, for a long time I had no image of a dream wedding whatsoever; I'd never wanted to get married and never anticipated finding a life-partner, so weddings simply never crossed my mind. Only after being with Jason for a year did I start thinking seriously about getting married and weddings, and I immediately nixed the fantasy-ballroom popular culture idea of weddings. I started thinking about getting married like my parents did, in a hastily-planned, DIY backyard wedding. They bought a house, fixed up the house and backyard, made some sandwiches and punch, and invited their friends for their wedding a month after moving in. I started thinking about other weddings I've loved, and realized that they were all more low-key intimate weddings of 50-75 people, often in backyards or gardens, giving the couple time to savor their joy with each and every guest.
Unfortunately, we don't have a backyard. And unfortunately, my parents' backyard simply won't work for our wedding needs. We need a handicapped accessible event space that can hold 150 people. Their tiered, multi-leveled backyard can comfortably meet the needs of 60 for a ceremony and 80 (scattered around) for dining. I thought about building ramps (which would be do-able) but the real constraint comes in the guest list: Jason's family is huge, and we have a decent sized list of friends-who-are-essentially-family.
Therefore, our real options came down to elope, a backyard celebration for family only, or 150 person celebration in a rented space. A backyard wedding would be dominated by Jason's 50-ish member family versus my 10-person group, which didn't feel right and excluded all my parents' friends who were essentially aunts and uncles to me through the years. As for eloping, our private commitment is already clear and we're not doing this for the legal rights (though we very much appreciate them and wish they were extended to all couples), so that didn't sit right with me either. Therefore, given our real-life choices, it was no contest: we choose the 150 person celebration in a rented space with our families, our friends and a variety of other loved ones.
Any vision of a wedding that might have fit want I wanted was simply out of the question. Instead, we're focusing on trying to create a backyard/intimate feel, without having a backyard or an intimate-sized guest list. I'm generally finding joy in the process and in the preparation for our marriage, but all of a sudden I'm finding myself mourning the backyard-wedding-that-will-never-be. I resigned myself months ago to the near-obscene cost of this thing, because I want a wedding and $20K+ is simply what it costs to throw a party for 150 people in a safe, welcoming, and minimally attractive way. But although I resigned myself to the cost, there's a new element of resentment creeping in that I'm spending so much on something I never really wanted to begin with.
I know by now that life isn't all about unicorns and rainbows, and my approach is generally to find joy in the hand I'm dealt. In this case, I was dealt a 150-person rented-venue wedding. It is what it is and, if I want to have a wedding celebration, this seems to be my best option. But I spent the last few days wishing things had turned out differently, and hoping that the joys of the day outweigh the hassles and challenges we're already facing down. Last week, I read this post and comments at A Practical Wedding about "Not Loving Your Wedding" and I found myself tearfully nodding along and relating to the discussions, finally able to give voice to the secret fears and unspoken resentments that I've tried to silence as I move on and deal with the situation life gave me. Because this isn't what I wanted, and yet it also is.
I can't picture anything more important than sharing a day of such monumental importance and joy with the people who matter most to us, but I'm fed up with all of the logistics, cost, and compromises that seem to be taking me further and further away from what I wanted out of this to begin with. I feel like I'm shouldering a lot of this myself - the endless research, the logistical planning, the savings - in large part because it makes sense for me to shoulder these. I enjoy research/planning and have a background in event planning. We decided to not ask our parents for financial assistance (for a variety of reasons) but, since I have the higher salary (I'm older and higher on the career ladder), the financial burdens are heavier on my end for the wedding. So even if it makes sense for me to take on these responsibilities, I just wish I felt better again about whether it's all worth it. And I wish I lived in the land of unicorns and rainbows where everything perfectly supported a low-key backyard wedding soiree with an into-the-wee-hours dance party celebration, capped off with a campfire, guitar playing and smores. Because that wedding would be worth it, and I would happily embrace the planning and cost challenges associated with it. I don't care much about the Prince Charming myth and I'd choose Jason anyhow but, just once, it would be really nice to get everything I wanted, in all it's imperfect backyard glory.