Way back when we were just dating and before we'd begun to seriously consider marriage, I read a New York Times trend piece about men hiring photographers to clandestinely capture their proposals. I was entirely put off by the concept of a stranger skulking around for however long the proposal adventure takes, essentially spying on these couples throughout a possibly drawn out surprise and during such an incredibly intimate moment, all in the name of capturing it on film. To me, it felt invasive and crass. There's a magic about a moment like that which photos can never quite capture. Photos are explicitly a means of retelling and sharing, and I was never entirely sure I wanted to fully share my proposal with anyone else. As for having the photos as a personal memory, while true artists can capture the honesty of an emotional event, it struck me that from-a-distance paparazzi lenses can never properly capture the truth of a moment like a proposal. Trying to do so cheapens it, especially when I imagined the hours-long skulking involved in a proposal photo shoot.
Jason, on the other hand, thought the idea was somewhat sweet. He respected all the effort, planning and intention in hiring a photographer. He'd seen photos from friends' proposals taken by other friends or family members who were in on the surprise and liked the idea of having photos to help remember the occasion. And, while I could see his point about family and friend snapshots of joy, I still didn't love the idea of sharing such a private experience with others. Luckily, we had this New York Times article to help us learn, early on, about our differing approaches to a someday hypothetical proposal. Accordingly, his own eventual contribution to our process of engagement was private, intimate, heartfelt, and perfectly suited me and us.
So perhaps this long-held preference for intimacy and privacy colored the following reaction, but when I read last week's post on Style Me Pretty about the Professional Proposal Planning Services, I wanted to break things over the head of the modern wedding industry. The wedding industry/blog focus on event design and pretty details has finally inspired wedding professionals to expand into providing design, details, planning and logistical implementation of our proposals now too. Silly me, I'd naively assumed our proposals were still just an incredibly personal moment and promise between two people and not a sales opportunity for intrepid event designers. It's still an incredibly personal moment, of course, but now, you can "improve" the moment by developing a "perfect" proposal concept with the professionals, using them to help you find the "perfect" flowers, dinner reservations, hotel, harpist, photographer, and lord knows what else. They can arrive ahead of time at the hotel (or wherever) and set everything up, so all you need to do is arrive with your partner, a ring, and a checkbook.
Yes, that description was a bit crass. And yes, I absolutely understand the conceptual value in hiring experts who have more knowledge of fancy restaurants and florists to give you advice about places that meet your partner's taste, particularly if you have limited time or your specific knowledge is limited. But there's something that makes me really uncomfortable about subcontracting intimacy and paying to have this "perfection" happen all around you, without you ever needing to fully engage in it. Then again, I'm someone who finds charm in the honest imperfections of the real-world proposal stories I've heard. It's the mistakes and human moments that make the stories salient, like when a friend refused to go on the hike her partner had planned for their proposal spot because of a brushfire warning and he kept trying to cajole her into hiking anyhow (she turned around and walked back to the car). There's something so incredibly touching about all the effort Jason took to plan an entire afternoon and evening of adventures, culminating in an at-home proposal after my inadvertent blurt-out proposal a few months before.
To me, there's something cold about designed perfection. Yes, I appreciate brilliant aesthetics. And yes, I appreciate when events are executed without complication or worry on the part of the participants. But, while I'm slightly envious of gorgeously designed and executed weddings, I'm also entirely frustrated that so many blogs celebrate the design and execution over the imperfectly perfect, messy, human emotions of our weddings. And now, this misplaced focus on the right flowers and the right setting and the right details and the right event planner and the right photographer has obviously bled outward from weddings into professional proposal planning services and into lord knows what other personal rituals and it all makes me ill.
This concept of carefully orchestrated details as an indication of how "perfect" your wedding or proposal is misguided and wrong. Yes, wrong. It's wrong and entirely misses the point. Pretty details can enhance honest emotions, and no one wants a logistical disaster to interfere with their weddings or proposals. But this focus on the Pretty and on having a fabulous photographer to capture the exquisite orchestration of details misses the genuine purpose of these important rituals. We participate in these rituals to connect with the people we love, not to provide them with a parade of expensive lovelies. We should hire people, such as capable event planners and coordinators, to help facilitate connection and not to design a stylish facsimile that photographs well.
Details and design don't preclude honest emotion, but they aren't at the core of weddings or proposals. Weddings are about acknowledging our most intimate emotions and committing to our partners in the presence of our chosen communities. They are inherently public and require some level of coordination to effectively manage the process. So, even if I dislike the ubiquity and expectations of expensive event design concepts on the blogs, I understand the incredible value in hiring experienced event coordinators (if you can afford it.) If they can also coordinate the prettiness, without letting it take center stage in how you experience the wedding and wedding planning process, you've found a true gem of an event coordinator and you should hire them immediately (if you can afford it.) On the other hand, proposals are about celebrating our most intimate moments and emotions together, without the explicit need for coordination or sharing. Proposals are when we can allow space for the joy of "imperfection" when she refuses to go on a hike or he drops the ring because he's nervous or she ends up proposing at on New Years Eve at midnight in the "wrong" bar in the "wrong" part of town. Those are the stories that last long beyond any exquisite floral arrangements.
Eff perfection. Embrace the raw honesty of your moments, and you won't go wrong, even if you can't afford to hire an event coordinator. And, with respect to proposals, especially if you don't hire one. I'm not sure I could have loved Jason's intricate proposal adventure if I'd found out he'd hired someone to help make it happen. I love it because it was his (and now ours). I love it because we spontaneously stopped at Canter's Deli along the way, which made sense for us but made zero sense from any aesthetic perspective. I love it because his slightly nervous energy and overwhelming love made the evening electric, in a way that planned perfection could never quite have captured.