Monday, May 16, 2011

The Night Before

The night before our wedding, as we were getting ready for bed, I was already steeling myself for the disappointment of the wedding. I was looking forward to the food, and the dancing, and the party, but in many ways I’d started to accept that my wedding might never live up to my hopes for it. I was expecting a day of joy, although I was resigned to the possibility that I might not feel “present,” even though I would be able to recognize the happiness swirling around me.

These weren’t just overwrought neuroses. We had just left our welcome barbecue, which our parents had jointly hosted for our families, out of town guests, and wedding party. There were 100 people in my parents' backyard. There were hugs and “I haven’t seen you in forever” excitement. There was joy watching our families and friends mingle and get to know each other. There were toasts. There were earnest conversations and laughter. It was like a mini-wedding. It was amazing. I felt so lucky that our families had given our community time to ease into the wedding like old friends. I felt lucky, period.

But I also felt... removed. Intellectually, I knew I was having fun. I could feel myself laughing and smiling and meaning it. But inside... I barely felt anything. I was hollow from the stress, from a last minute wedding argument, and from the sheer exhaustion of the last two months. I remember walking around, so excited to finally meet and spend time with Jason’s extended family, so happy that my cousins and friends had flown in, and yet it was almost too much energy to smile. I was smiling from genuine pleasure, but it’s like the smile never warmed me. It stopped in my head and never made it to my heart.

I had been looking forward to this night for months. It was the night when everything finally was taken care of. There were no errands to be run. There was no to-do list left to conquer (aside from venue setup the next day.) I should have been able to be present, but I wasn’t. And I couldn’t quite tell where I was. Part of me was there, taking in the love of the toasts and the warm greetings. But part of me was just empty from everything it had taken to get here.

Even now, it’s hard to think back to the two months before the wedding. Yes, it was exceedingly stressful to plan a DIY wedding. Yes, it was nearly impossible to juggle my heavy workload, my “get these projects off my desk before the honeymoon” extra workload, my last minute business trips, and the wedding planning. Yes, our house was a disaster.  Yes, emotions were running higher for us and our families. But in our particular instance, getting to the wedding took reserves we didn’t know we had. Jason’s company was launching a major new product that would make or break the company... three weeks before our wedding. He was literally sleeping three hours a night, in bed by 5am, and on daily international conference calls at 8am. This went on for nearly a month, and then he disappeared for a week to Austin for the launch.

I was alone. I was planning the wedding myself. My rosy-eyed visions of how wedding planning would be hard, but we’d conquer it and grow as a team gave way to the loneliness of our reality. Given the strain Jason was under, he went above and beyond any human capacity to help with wedding tasks. But mostly, it was my responsibility, when I already felt overwhelmed with my job too (though it wasn’t anything like his.) I felt jealous that he could at least share his stress with his work team, buoyed by the enthusiasm and mission at his company. I wasn’t a part of what he was going though and I couldn’t do anything to help with the stress or the sleep. And on my end, with the wedding... it was just me. Alone.

Somewhere along the way, I realized this was one of those “hard times” that will happen in any marriage. One of the lows.  One of the times you just set your jaw and work through the all-consuming stress and keep having faith that you’ll move past this phase. One of the points when you love each other but you’re not “in love” because to be “in love” you both need to nurture each other, which we didn’t have time or capacity for. And I knew it would be okay again, and that we’d get back to a high and fall back in love. But it was a damn shitty way to go into my wedding.

After our welcome barbecue, I just tried to keep silent. I didn’t want to voice my worries that the wedding might feel the same way as the dinner. I couldn’t explain that I was still aching from the last two months in a way that a wedding might not heal.  I knew that I might feel the wedding joy, and yet that I might not be fully part of it. That I might be on the outside looking in. As we spent our last unmarried night together, Jason pulled me in close, the way he does that always makes things better. But it didn’t feel better. It just felt like his arms, and not like the emotional safety of our hard-times snuggles. And so I resigned myself. I steeled myself. I reminded myself again why we were doing this, and that our wedding would matter in the long term, even if I never felt present the next day. I reminded myself that we were investing in family, investing in community, and that these things would be enough. And I slept soundly, freed from expectation at last.


  1. Aww, B! I know the feeling exactly. I have never been more exhausted in my life than on the way to the rehearsal dinner. I burst into tears and my mom had to convince me that I could do it. Not a proud moment at all.

    But you're right: letting go made the next day work better!

  2. This was exactly the post I needed to read today. Thank you so much!

    Also, you're such a good writer.

  3. I wish I had read this before my wedding.

  4. So you have no idea how much I needed this post today. My mom broke her leg and is going into surgery and wants me to take care of her this weekend. I'm getting married next weekend.
    I don't want to do this anymore. I just want to get married. I'm switching between so stressed out that I want to stay at home and work on the wedding and so guilty that I want to spend $500 to fly and take care of my mom one week before the wedding. This is suckage.

  5. @Meg - I'm so sorry for your mom and for the really poor timing and for this hard stuff at an already hard time. First of all, hugs. I know something about family medical emergencies at inopportune times (though there's never a good time, of course.) Second of all, deep breath, get out a pen, and start crossing tasks off your to-do list via either a)delegating them to someone else or b) getting rid of them altogether. You're going through a lot. Whether you can fly back to be with your mother or not, it may affect the wedding work you can accomplish.

    And lastly, try to stand back a bit (hard when you're in the thick of it) and stop thinking about the $500 (also hard, I know) and think about your life five years from now. Most of these giant temporary stresses or to-do list items will me meaningless five years from now. Your mother's health will still matter. Your wedding, as a whole, will still matter. Most of the tasks stressing you out... won't matter. See if thinking about it like that helps you come to a decision. Good luck, and remember you WILL be married soon. It will all be done and it's so much better here on the other side.

  6. Awww, what a crappy way to head into a weekend of celebration. Oh, the irony of entering into a long-term partnership... alone! Despite the crappiness, it seems like an important realization on the eve of a wedding: of course, we are buoyed and supported by our communities, and inextricably woven into them, and, at the same time, we are, all of us, fundamentally alone. No matter how close we get to someone, they can never climb inside our heads, read our minds, do things for us. How bittersweet to come up against the tension between these two existential truths on the night before your wedding.

    This is SUCH an IMPORTANT post! We all face the fundamental alone-ness of life, even when married, and it is so important to give voice to it.

    And to the reality that life has a way of conflicting with weddings. In our case, it was a crucial performance review, that required reams of documentation and meetings, created huge amounts of stress and uncertainty and distraction, and cast a huge pall over the weeks leading up to the wedding, such that I was wishing it could have been postponed to after the wedding just to avoid that shadow hanging over us.

  7. I live for this blog, really........I do.

    As I climbed into bed the night of our rehearsal dinner, I too felt completely alone. I was exhausted and knew certain kinks still hadn't been worked out for our reception. People had come through for me but major loved ones had also let me down. My spread charts and time lines just didn't work when people were late.

    And then, I kid you not, as I was lying there- I thought of your blog and about all the work you had done and realized I wasn't the only one who'd worked her buns off.

    Thank you a million times for your awesome entries, they renew my soul on a level that I really could never ever fully convey with just words.

  8. I am soaking up these post-wedding posts like nobody's business. So much wisdom, sense, and normality. I am so grateful to have them to look back on in a few months when the Crazy will start for real. Thanks!

  9. These posts are just what I'm needing. You're amazing.


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