Thursday, February 25, 2010

Technical Difficulties

I've been known to go offline when I get frustrated/have nothing nice to say about weddings/live/love/Los Angeles.  This is not one of those times.  This time, it's because my at-home internet is not cooperating AT ALL.

Since I don't/won't blog at work (except for this PSA), posting has been light this week.  Hopefully I'll get it figured out asap and I'll be back with new posts shortly (tomorrow, all going well, dear internet gods?)

And, if not, I will continue to do some low-tech reading tonight instead.  If your internet crashes in the next few days, I can highly recommend The Time Travelers Wife as a gorgeous piece of language and story.  And although I live in Los Angeles, I genuinely had no idea that this book was made into a movie until after I borrowed it from a friend. I prefer books, thankyouverymuch.

Anyhow, hopefully I'll see you back here tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Damned if you Do, Damned if you Don't

"How much should you spend on a wedding dress? For that matter, how much should you spend on the wedding?"

And thus opens yet another subtly bride-bashing article in the mainstream media. In the Wall Street Journal's Return on Investment column, Brett Arends examines what a wedding really costs, in an article entitled "A Lavish Wedding Costs More Than You Think." As if $18,000 isn't panic-inducing enough, Arends wants to make sure you know that it's not just $18,000 you're spending:
"Your $18,000 wedding? It may really end up costing you between $90,000 and $200,000. That $2,000 dress? Think: $10,000 to $22,000. The $10,000 food bill for your guests? Try $50,000 to $110,000.
No, I am not kidding.
That's because the biggest cost of every dollar you spend is invisible. It's all the money you'd accumulate if you saved it instead.
Do the math. The typical bride is just 26 at her first wedding, according to the U.S. Census. She has four decades or more to save.
If her savings earn 4% a year above inflation over the long haul, each dollar she spends now is actually taking $5—in today's terms—out of her lifetime savings. If her money earns 6% a year above inflation, an estimate that is challenging but not ridiculous, she is taking out $11.
Per dollar spent."
I know it's Arend's job to make us more conscious of the impact our spend-versus-save decisions have on our future life.  And I'm going to be generous and assume he's already ripped apart typically male gadget purchases and flat screen TVs and luxury autos.  Because this particular wedding article is dripping with gendered budget-judging bullshit. It opens with judgment about the dress expense and moves right into discussions of the average bride's age. What about the groom's preference for an expensive DJ? Or the groom with a larger family who wants a more traditional wedding when you just wanted to get married in the backyard?  Or what about the damn groom's age and HIS lost savings?

Oh, that's right.  The $18,000 excessive budget is my bridezilla-inspired fault.  The bridezilla who apparently can't do math and can't figure out the value, import, and consequences of her own financial decisions.

Except that, I've done my math. I know the full value of every hard-earned dollar we're spending on this thing and I know every alternative vacation or grad school plan or house savings account we could have funded otherwise.  I also know there's no possible investment (that I have access to) that's earning over 4% above inflation these days (math? hmm?).  I also know that investing in this wedding will pay dividends in goodwill and love and family and spousal harmony. Yes, investing in this wedding, in this marriage, and in this opportunity to build new family and intertwine old.

One of the most difficult aspects of planning this wedding has been the immediate and overwhelming moral judgment ascribed to our highly personal decision-making process.  Everyone has an opinion about how we're planning this wedding and everyone thinks we're doing it wrong.  Especially since I'm a woman who apparently can't do math.  Jason and I have written a bit about the gender expectations associated with weddings and the damage caused by both the bridezilla b*s and the hands-off expectations for grooms. Relying on these caricatures does nothing to further the concept or practice of marriage as a partnership.  It's much the opposite, in fact. Arends is addressing the very real financial issue of opportunity cost, but doing it in a way that subtly blames the woman for this specifically lost opportunity related to wedding. Even though the article notes that the average wedding cost fell 8% since 2008 to $17,500 (based on a survey by the Knot), this new frugality isn't enough for Arends. So he interviews a wedding expert whose brilliant advice we've all heard before (DIY the invitations! Have a DJ instead of a band! Don't get married on Saturday! Hire a new photographer! Cut the guest list!), but still won't generally help us crack that mythical $10,000 budget goal. Especially when the contradictory advice also admonishes us that we can't have a cash bar, ask a friend to take photos, or cut back on waiters. 

I just want to tell everyone to keep their uninformed opinion and concurrently contradictory no-cash-bar expectations out of my damn wedding. Having an ipod wedding (that's right - we're even cutting the DJ!) still won't get us to a number you think is reasonable. And you know what?  I don't give a damn what you think anymore or how much your punch-and-cake wedding cost in 1975.  This bride has done her math.  I do it every week, in fact, as I look for new ways to shave $10, $100, or even $1000 off the wedding that my groom wants even more than I do. And my math says that the opportunity cost of NOT having this wedding would be far worse than moving forward with the event.

Hopefully tomorrow's column can refrain from bashing grooms for spending too much at strip clubs on their bachelor parties. Sheesh.

Monday, February 22, 2010

A Wedding is an Excuse for Other Kick-*ss Parties

One of the strangely difficult parts of wedding planning is emotionally letting go of all the types of weddings I won't get to have.  I won't get to have an all-night Saturday night dance party.  I won't get to have an intimate backyard wedding.  I won't get to have a barefoot beach wedding.  I won't get to have a campsite/weekend retreat wedding.  I won't get to have a destination wedding in Italy.  I won't get to have a lot of things, and that's increasingly okay, particularly as I'm re-learning how to love the wedding we will have.

It's also okay because, as many in the blogosphere rightly point out, this isn't the last party we're ever going to have. It won't be the same as my wedding, but I could plan a birthday party out clubbing night with a group of friends. Or we could have a beach day leading into a nighttime bonfire sometime during the summer.  Or we can coordinate with a large group of friends to rent a cabin or group of campsites for the weekend.  Obviously, these aren't the same as a wedding, but I'm hardly saying goodbye to any and all future beach-oriented (or whatever) type celebrations.

Although I've been telling myself again and again that this isn't the last party I'll ever have, it's been even more fun to realize that the wedding has inspired all sorts of more immediate party ideas and opportunities too.  Our apartment has a nice set up for dinner parties (10 max) so we've been slowly inviting different groups of friends over for themed evenings.  We had a game night, a curry night and, most recently, a cheap wine tasting and tapas party night. Yes, a cheap wine tasting.  Everyone brought a bottle, a tapas dish, and we conducted blind taste tests of the imbibable offerings.  It was both a perfect excuse to have an inexpensive dinner party and chance to suss out the best inexpensive wine options for our wedding. Unfortunately, we had a three-way tie between two wines I was too tipsy to properly recall and Two-Buck-Chuck.  All I know is one wine was rated 88 and had no sulfates and it still couldn't beat out Chuck.  So I'm going to assume this means we can serve whatever the heck we want at our wedding and no one will know the difference.  All in all, a productive and kick-*ss awesome dinner party night.

And frankly, this is what we all should be doing.  We should find ways to test the fun wedding ideas on willing participant friends. We should take all the if-only wedding ideas we've put aside and turn them into dinner parties now, when we all definitely need a break from the intensity of wedding planning.  We should take inspiration from all the tablescape event-designed centerpiece porn and have a contest for who can bring the silliest centerpiece made out of thrifted/recyclable/around the house items and given them a prize. We should plan make-your-own-taco-buffet-night parties.  We should plan afternoon lawn game parties with alcoholic punch served in infusion jars (I bought this one for our recent holiday party, and think it might be perfect for the wedding too...). We should ALL have cheap wine parties or signature cocktail voting parties or which cupcake do you like best parties.  We should have a wine-and-craft-night party for our bunting, centerpieces, table runners, paper flowers, or other DIY needs. We should let our friends help plan the wedding with us by plying them with alcohol and evenings worth of fun. We should find ways to remember that the wedding is a celebration and that the process can unfold slowly and even enjoyably, if we let it.  

With this in mind, we have multiple dinner parties on our upcoming to-do list: vegetarian/vegan/gluten free dinner party night (we have some friends whose menus need special care, and it's a good excuse to stretch our possible DIY appetizer repertoire too), a cupcake decoration party, a homemade pizza and beer movie-night party (the beer won't be homemade, but we can definitely do a tasting of local microbrew options),  a whiskey cocktail party, and a few game nights thrown in for good measure. If we had enough gilfriends who'd been in traditional weddings, we might have a wear-your-worst-bridesmaid dress party and we'd make the guys craft boutonnieres out of indie-wedding-chic feathers, buttons and flowers. Obviously, we'd have to take a photo at the end with everyone in mustaches.

I like planning parties.  I like being ridiculous.  For these reasons, I even like wedding planning (on occasion.)  But I'm especially liking how wedding planning has inspired me to be a better and more creative host in our everyday lives. This wedding stuff should be fun so, whenever the stress starts to get to me, I'm going to try to turn the ridiculousness into a dinner party/entertainment option.  Who else is in?  And who's got a few more themed dinner party ideas to share?

Friday, February 19, 2010

NOW it's a Party

Last night, Jason came home bursting with excitement about a wedding planning idea.  Since our wedding is now headed into a daylight-hours direction, he wondered how I'd feel about a pinata at the wedding.

How would I feel?  I'D FEEL FREAKING WONDERFUL about a pinata at the wedding.  I've been advocating for the pinata since before we got officially engaged.  I had a pinata at our holiday/engagement party filled with Hanukkah chocolates and mini-bottles of booze because I was in mourning for the wedding-pinata-that-wouldn't-be (and because I've loved pinatas since my childhood birthday parties, of course.)

Eff it, this is a wedding PARTY, and we're having a pinata.

So, in the spirit of Hispano-American infused Southern California party traditions, I'll leave you with this awesome Spanish Fiesta Inspiration Board compiled by Los Angeles-based photographer Heidi Ryder.

Please visit Heidi's own post for references to all the amazing vendors from the above images.  (I'm especially partial to the papelitos picados banners by Aymujer on Etsy)

Happy effing Friday, everyone.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Eff the Bouquet

The other day, I mentioned that Jason and I had a tiff about my bouquet. He knows I'm into succulents, so he sent me this:


Whereas my succulent bouquet inspiration plays with shape and color a bit more:

Somehow, this aesthetic disagreement led to an argument, despite the fact that Jason was only trying to help.  It gets even worse, though.  Because not only did I behave like an ungrateful, frazzled, weddinged-out tool, but I DON'T EVEN WANT A BOUQUET.  That's right, we fought about aesthetics for something that is so unimportant to me that I don't even want one.  Sigh.

In my defense, I'd just spent the afternoon battling with my mother about not wanting a bouquet.  Because apparently not having a bouquet is a giant bridal no-no.  I find this idiotic, since no one I've asked (including my mother) can explain the purpose of a bouquet. Yes, the purpose. Since we're not tied to tradition-for-tradition's sake, the question "why bother" has become pretty important in this planning process.  As best as I can tell, a bouquet is simply a pretty bridal prop, and a fleeting, extraordinarily expensive, overly photographed one at that (sorry, I'm not in love with detail shots). At least it does have an interesting origin, if not a purpose, as Ellie from Wedding for Two described in a post about choosing traditions,
With bouquets - people used to bathe only once, maybe twice a year. Flowers covered the stench of a bride who hadn't washed herself in months. I shower daily. Therefore I do not need a bouquet. However, it will upset the moms if I don't have it. So I'm sucking it up.
Oh. So bouquets are simply vestiges of foul personal hygiene habits in a bygone era.  Awesome.  I'd now feel entirely justified in saying eff it...  except for that mother thing. (Perhaps Ellie is wiser than I, in that regard.) Let's assume for a moment that I'm willing to consider acquiescing to give my mother this small joy (since bouquets are not the hill I want to die on. We have the possible barbecue wedding battle to survive first.)  I still can't figure out what to DO with the darn thing besides hold it in portrait photos.  Some of you might say "carry it down the aisle, of course!" But that's not going to work for me, since I'll be holding BOTH my parents' arms down the aisle (in Jewish tradition both parents walk their child - bride and groom - down the aisle.) So I won't even have a place to hold the silly prop. 

This argument held zero water with my mother.  Instead, she demonstrated how I could loop my arms through both of theirs and hold my bouquet in the middle.  I foresee a klutzy train-and-heel-filled disaster whereas she's in proud-mama daydream land.  So, to bolster my case, I asked a few of my recently married girlfriends what they did with their bouquets. Almost unanimously, the responses were "I handed it to my maid of honor," " I held it in photos" and "I dried it afterwards and I have it as a keepsake." Note that I didn't mention bouquet tossing, because that's just not how me or most of my girlfriends roll. Also note that NO ONE actually held onto it for more than a few minutes all night.  To me, those few minutes are not worth either a) spending $150 on having a rad succulent bouquet made by a florist (because I know I'm not getting near this sort of DIY) b) dealing with finding organic flowers and making one myself the day before or c) making it out of sustainable materials ahead of time and having it as a permanent keepsake.  Until I came to my I-have-zero-time-to-thrift-for-brooches-and-what-would-I-even-do-with-the-thing-after-the-wedding senses, I was a little set on making one of these:


As with so much of this wedding stuff, a bouquet is not a requirement.  And if it's an aesthetic option without an intrinsic purpose to the day (besides reminding us to use deodorant), then I can't for the life of me figure out why I should give a damn.  I like pretty, but at this point bouquet-pretty and the effort to achieve it may be beyond my point of giving-a-damn. If anyone has a good argument for keeping the bouquet, I'm curious as to why.  And if you were remotely contemplating ditching the bouquet, please let me know.  I'm feeling like I've committed some weird bridal taboo for even bringing up my questions. And if there's a good enough reason or my mother reeeeeally cares that much, I can always throw together some farmer's market organic flowers that morning or go with a last-minute eff it.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Eff It, It's Not a Saturday Night Wedding

In Jewish tradition, we aren't permitted to get married on the Sabbath which, for us, falls on Saturday.  Therefore, from sundown on Friday through sundown on Saturday, all wedding rituals are a no-go.  Well, technically we could start after the 7:15 sunset but, given that we have to get through a ketubah signing, ceremony, and untold numbers of hugs prior to the reception, I'm not willing to make guests wait until 10pm to eat.  I'm also not willing to wait for a holiday weekend to get married (so you have the Sunday-as-Saturday-ish benefit) since flights are always pricier over holiday weekends and I've been stuck shelling out $500 for a few cross-country weddings-on-holiday weekend flights myself.  Given that we want to make this affordable and convenient for our out-of-town friends and family, I refuse to put an extra $200 per person barrier between them and their ability to celebrate our wedding in person.

So we set about planning our Sunday wedding.  So what if the noise restrictions may shut down the party at 10pm?  So what if all our local guests will probably creep home by 10pm for "school night" hours anyhow?  So what if bars aren't generally open late on Sunday night?  We want a party, damnit.  We want a giant mass of revelry and joy.  We want messy dancing and flailing arms and heels-kicked-off getting down action on the party floor.

Which would be fine and totally doable, if we were having a Saturday wedding.  But we're not.  And all this time, we've been trying to plan a Saturday wedding on a Sunday.  I've been making myself sick about how to get that dance party vibe, whether an 8pm-10pm party will feel like a sad truncated junior high dance, whether people will dance if the music is on lower post-10pm volumes, whether we have enough young out-of-towners to keep the dance floor full on a school night, and whether there are any affordable hotels with bars that are open on Sunday for a plan-B afterparty locale.  Because I've been trying to plan a Saturday wedding.  Only I don't have a Saturday wedding.  I have a Sunday wedding.  On a hilltop in the Malibu Canyons that's 30 minutes from the urbanized city.  With a 10pm noise restriction issue.  Given these parameters, I think we've finally realized that our Saturday-type plans just don't make sense.

So eff it.  From here on out we're planning a Sunday wedding, at the site we love that felt 100% right the moment we saw it.  Instead of trying to cram our original wedding ideas into the wrong peg, we're going to see what feels right from a Sunday timing-and-feel perspective.  Perhaps it's a Sunday brunch wedding with an evening pool party at the hotel.  Perhaps it's a boozy Sunday lunch barbecue with lawn games.  Perhaps its an afternoon punch-and-cake soiree with lawn games, a band, and a for-the-kids dance party in a bar close to the hotel.  Or maybe it's a tapas and wine wedding party with light music and dancing.  We don't know.  By finally admitting what our wedding is not, we're finally giving ourselves the chance to discover what it might become.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Eff it if it's Not Fun

I am so. over. weddings.  Well, not all weddings, but mine in particular.  I'm sure your wedding is going to be lovely.  Mine, on the other hand, feels like a huge expensive stressful beast of an event that's taking me further and further from the parts that mattered in the first place: love, a public commitment shared with our loved ones, and a celebration of that commitment and joy.  Instead, my brain keeps playing over logistics scenarios and rapidly mounting costs and getting increasingly frustrated that all this effort and expense will buy us a pretty, pricey, stressful-though-joyful party in which we don't get to spend much time with each other or with our loved ones after all.  

And so, just as Jason started getting excited about the details, I couldn't take it anymore.  He showed me a picture of a succulent bouquet he thought I might like and I nearly ripped his head off.  Granted, it wasn't really my aesthetic cup of tea, but I clearly wasn't reacting to the floral arrangement.  Having Jason care about my damn bouquet* was just one more negotiation in a string of neverending negotiations and I couldn't take it anymore.  I couldn't take thinking about posts for this blog, or reading other people's wedding blog posts, or even thinking about weddings for one single moment.  I begged Jason to elope (and I don't beg.  I perhaps, on occasion, whine a bit, but I never beg.  Except about eloping - there was a definite pleaspleasplease moment.)  He vehemently declined.  I therefore continued to feel resentful about the stupid expensive wedding.  

Until tonight. I did some more elopement whining tonight (I've moved beyond the begging), said some things I regret, and shared a few epiphanies with Jason after the anger subsided a bit. Epiphany number one: eff it if it's not fun.  It sounds so simple now that we're saying it out loud and in context: If it's not fun to plan, eff it.  Either we're going to throw some minimal money at it to make it go away or eff it altogether.  Lanterns look pretty and would go splendidly in our reception space, but I can't think of anything more miserable than climbing ladders that morning to hang lanterns and we're certainly not paying someone to come in and hang lanterns (because duh, they're lanterns and I'm not in the "hire an event designer and team" budget category). So eff it. Centerpieces can certainly tie together a room and it might be fun to style a cohesive concept but, if we start bickering about flowers, tea lights or succulents, it's no longer any fun.  So eff it.  Short of effing the entire damn wedding, we're suddenly a lot more willing to say a big eff it left and right and all over.  Save the dates?  Eff it and give your grandparents a call.  Catered meal?  Eff it and hire a taco truck.  Trying to plan a DJ dance party with Sunday night noise restrictions?  Eff it and head back to the hotel lounge.  I refuse to spend the next year not having fun because I'm stressing about planning and paying for this thing.  So eff it.  If it's not fun, freaking eff it all.
 

*to clarify, Jason doesn't actually give two hoots about my bouquet choices.  He was trying to be helpful when I'd already hit my "visual inspiration" breaking point.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Health

I'm not always the best about taking care of myself.  I have a tendency to start up with healthy living plans, only to watch it all fall apart when my inevitable stress-messes hit. At this point, I'm wise enough to get back on the healthy living wagon (somewhat) quickly, but there's also a comfortable lazy tendency pulling me back towards the comfort of my bed (instead of exercising in the morning) or towards the comfort food of pasta, cheese, and numerous other rich indulgences (instead of a plate piled high with vegetables with cheese as an accent).  Even worse, Jason has many of the same comfort-trending inclinations. 

This should be a health-related disaster.  But, somehow, it's not.  Instead, we're much better influences on each other than when we were "just" in a committed relationship.  We're consciously working to build routines that reinforce health, including planning our weekly home cooked meals, shopping at the Farmers Markets, and supporting each others' unique exercise needs (he bikes, I sometimes run, use workout videos, and buy occasional personal training sessions to re-motivate me at the gym. I still miss college sports.)  He reads my Weight Watchers cookbooks and asks questions about my needs as he learns to cook in ways that support our healthy aims.  When one person lags, the other is there to actually help with the slack, making lunches, cooking dinner, and suggesting Saturday afternoon walks around the neighborhood.

Most certainly, we could have done this in an everyday partnership situation.  But knowing that we're in it for life has made it both easier and more imperative.  It's shifted the calculation of what's important in my everyday. We're strong enough together that we're actively challenging each others' choices, asking if you really want that extra (third) cookie (couching it in weekly points allowance language or we-have-a-nice-dinner-out-tomorrow language.*) We're careful about these conversations, but we're finally learning how to effectively challenge and push each others' comfort zones, ultimately safe in the knowledge that these tough questions won't precipitate a breakup.  Because we're committed to this relationship, no matter what and it's because of that lifetime view that we're pushing each other so hard.  My health matters to someone else.  His health matters to me.  My late night sugary indulgences suddenly feel short-shortsightedly selfish now that I'm able to picture the long-term selfish goals that require being healthy enough to travel the world at 80 together, holding each others' hands, reminiscing about a lifetime of joy built on the back of these hard third-cookie conversations and commitments.

We're aiming for a lifetime of marriage by using this engagement period to test out recipes, routines, and hard-question approaches. For me, it's the hard questions that are the most striking part of this engagement period.  Finding ourselves secure in this partnership has finally allowed us to jointly tackle our individual (and shared) weaknesses, to be more honest with each other, and to continue feeling respected in the process. We're actively making time for it, even when it's hard and I mostly feel whiny.  For us, we've directed our current efforts at health.  For others, it's probably something else.  But regardless, this process of marriage has given us an opportunity to test our boundaries and rely on our love, all while working to build a long-term future.


*we also know each other well enough to know when NOT to touch the third cookie conversation with a ten foot pole. There's that look, at the end of one of those days, that obviously says back the heck off my chocolate chips.  

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Deadlines

I am both a goal-oriented and deadline-oriented person.  My daydreams are lofty and I hold myself to exceedingly strict standards, primarily because I know am capable of greatness.*  Counterbalancing my potential, however, is the unfortunate lack of self-directive abilities.  I need deadlines.  In fact, I crave deadlines in order to force myself slightly closer to realizing my full potential.  This odd mix of driven neuroticism and an inability to self-motivate would be a dangerous combination in wedding planning if it weren't for one thing: we have a deadline, and it's April 2011.

Apart from any logistical or budgetary reasons to have a long engagement, I'm really thankful for this prescribed time period that we can devote to marriage planning.  Although we've long been committed to lofty marriage and life goals, our deadline focuses me on making these goals manageable and realistic. Fourteen months from now, I intend to stand with Jason, not just committed to our marriage, but sure that we are jointly committed to the difficult actions of everyday respect and love, even when we disagree.  Although we entered this engagement secure in our joint values, temperament and general goals, the process of truly interweaving our lives is different.  It's about taking time to build that boring foundation that can help guide us when we're too tired to think after an evening with the newborn.  It's about planning now so that our marriage doesn't slowly crumble on the weight of unspoken resentments or poorly resolved arguments.  In part, we chose a long engagement to get done with the seating charts and therefore give us time to learn about Us - not Jason, not Becca, but Us. What Our joint financial goals and processes are.  Which synagogue meets Our needs.  How we respond as a Family when life throws us a health-related curveball or job loss. Who We are when facing our families as a Unit. Who We are when facing the world as a Unit.

Starting now, I have a fourteen month path between here and the wedding, and I have implemented a strict plan for tackling my to-do list.  Instead of checklists about color schemes and bridesmaids invitations, my to-do list is filled with the marriage planning aspects associated with this wedding period, and each task gives me the warm fuzzies just thinking about it.  We've started working our way through 1001 Questions to Ask Before You Get Married, a great, secular workbook that tackles the hard issues underlying communication, compromise, and decision making.  It's exhausting stuff, but manageable and worthwhile when approached in one-hour chunks, over a glass of wine. I'm excited to next talk through the nitty gritty of joint finances, beyond the starting point-knowledge that we both have some savings and we're both risk-averse.  It's harder to pin down how much we each want to devote to retirement, versus the wedding, versus vacations, etc and even harder to begin talking about these issues regularly and effectively as a team.

I know that marriage is a process: prior to the engagement, leading up to the wedding, and every day thereafter.  But for me, it's nice to have a deadline.  It's nice to have a prescribed time-frame in which to fully delve into my neuroticism and overanalyze every possibility, together, while we're full of excitement about the future.  It's nice to have a goal, something I'm actively working towards, besides this amorphous "forever" thing.  And it's equally nice to know that once the wedding planning is done, we can put a lot of the hard, draining, questions behind us, ready to just be.  I have no intention of sitting up at 5am the morning of our wedding, editing my vows, wondering how the ceremony got away from me due to making ipod playlists and wondering what the next step for us is.  Because this is too important.  And I'm approaching both the wedding and the vows as a process of marriage, one with a clear deadline, but as a process that is best savored.


*of course, there are areas where greatness most definitely eludes me. That's when I set the bar low, such as aiming to dance without tripping over my second left foot. Give me an excel analysis however, and I'll come back with genius.  I swear.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Wedding Joy Week

For all of my hesitations and doubts about the wedding itself, there are also tons of parts that I'm really enjoying.  I've seen a lot of angst running around the wedding web lately and I relate to it.  But I wonder it there isn't an echo chamber vortex that's pulling us deeper into the challenges instead of lifting us out and back into the good stuff.  And it's important to talk about the challenges that aren't all rainbows and soft-lit love, but it's equally important to talk about the good. Because there definitely is good stuff too, and I'm definitely not talking about the dress, the cake, or the pretty inspiration boards.

When I started realizing this relationship with Jason was different, was bigger and more meaningful than anything else, I didn't know what to make of it.  I couldn't tell if it was love, because it didn't feel like the messed-up versions of love I'd experienced before. So I did a lot of reading about "what is love?" and a lot of trying to decide what love and marriage and commitment really mean. (Yeah, marriage.  At five months in, I knew this could eventually get there, even if it wasn't remotely on my near-term radar.) So what does it mean to fall in love with the right person, outside of the BS notions of Prince Charming perfection or tortured unrequited yearning, or the I-can-save-him impulses (yeah, I've been to all of those dark places.) In my process of research, I found one idea that really resonated with me, and has come to matter in non-relationship aspects of my life as well: the 80% concept. 

It's the idea that nothing is 100% perfect: not a job, not a house, not a relationship, and not a wedding.  I'm certainly not perfect, so it's ridiculous to expect that a relationship will be.  Extend that to your family, and you can see why wedding perfection and ease-of-implementation is one big, silly myth. So if you get 80% good and 20% bad, you're one of the lucky ones.  I'd go so far as to argue that 70% and 30% bad is a pretty good ratio too, as it certainly falls squarely on the positive side of the equation.  (Good and bad are also contextual, of course.  If you're in a relationship where he's great 80% of the time and physically assaults you the other 20%, there's zero good in that.  But you know that's not what I mean in the 80/20 analogy.)  The point is that life is full of great and awful moments, so we should try and focus on the great things, mitigate the bad to the best of your ability, and ultimately accept that everything is a trade-off but that you certainly have it pretty good at 80% awesome.

The point is, that I think there's a lot of great things about planning a wedding, if you do it right.  Is it 80%?  I'm not sure.  There are tons of frustrations, ridiculous expenses, and absurd pressures from yourself, your family and society at large.  However, I want to make it clear that I'm finding a lot of reasons to truly enjoy this process too, and it's certainly over the 50% positive threshold.  So, this week, I'm putting aside the angst to focus on the pleasures, joys, and all the reasons that planning a wedding is a once-in-a-lifetime process that I am savoring.  Maybe it's 80% joy and maybe it's somewhat less, but I want to move beyond the concept of loving/hating our DIY projects, loving/hating picking flowers, and generally all hating our financial constraints.  Because weddings are something a lot more than that.  Weddings are (hopefully) joy, in all their myriad forms, despite all the also-associated stresses.  Despite those stresses, I'm not convinced that rushing towards marriage, regardless of how long we've been together and how committed we were before the engagement, is the best way to approach the process.*  I'm finding that my eventual marriage will be stronger and more fulfilling because of this process of working through the stresses together.  We're consciously taking time to appreciate each other, to learn new and nuanced layers about each others' personalities and families, and discovering surer footing as we learn to stand together as a solid unit, facing challenges wedding planning head on.  So, this week, I want to get back to focusing on that 80% joy, in all its complexity, and give a big eff you to the 20% of the cr*p that's outside of my control anyhow.

*nor is it the worst way to approach the process.  There are benefits to both approaches.