This weekend marks the smack-dab middle between our engagement last autumn and our wedding this autumn. It seems like a good time for some scattered observations - purely my own, predominantly heartfelt, some with a touch of snark, all honest. I hope you'll read and enjoy, with the knowledge that everyone has a different engagement experience and I don't aim to speak for anyone else.
Getting engaged in a location sans cell service was a great thing to do. We got to hold it just between us for about 16 hours. It gave us time to make it feel real, to have moments of giddiness and normalcy, to cook dinner together, to play Gin, to make sure the ring fit once my finger shrunk back to its regular size. I highly recommend being completely unreachable for the first little bit. It reminds you why.
When you do start sharing the news - typically less than 24 hours after the question-popping - people will probably ask you if you have a date set. It's okay to take a deep breath and say no, not quite yet.
Hearing your parents and grandparents bust out with cheers when you tell them over the phone is a great feeling. Even better when you realize they have you on speaker and they're in a busy restaurant for Sunday brunch.
It's wonderful to hear from so many people who are just plain happy that you're happy. It's a really meaningful and humbling gift right from the start of this whole thing, to get hugs and shrieks and notes and texts and calls from all over.
At the same time, it was a tad unnerving for me to realize that I'm now in the camp of engaged Facebook acquaintances that I've admittedly rolled my eyes at (lovingly) (mostly) in the past. I like attention - I'm a writer/blogger after all - but a lot of my outer awareness has focused on: You're happy, that's great, ground yourself within that. But there are other things that people care about, important things, and the entirety of social media does not need - or want - to be in on every detail.
Some of my dearest friends have been the ones to say, without preamble, "If you need more space, I completely understand, you don't have to invite me!" And I have gaped at them for a moment, then squeezed them close and said, "Uh, you're coming."
You don't have to schedule an appointment at a ritzy boutique to find a great dress.
E-mail has made a lot of the big stuff easier. Venues, photographer, caterer - all booked via e-mail.
So far for our registry we've come up with "a good set of knives" and "nice sheets/linens." Clearly we need to be spending more time on this, but also, when you're closer to 30 than 20 and you've each lived on your own for several years, it's hard to determine exactly what you need (for, oh, the next few decades). I want to accio all of our stuff into one space and suddenly, just by looking at it all, gain that clarity. (Harry Potter reference in a wedding-related post. *Drops mic.*)
On that note, let's start throwing Congrats! You're an independent adult! showers. Marriage should not be the primary catalyst for deserving nice housewares.
Somehow Martha Stewart Wedding has invaded my mailbox and wound up in my trash can more than once. And spending even 30 seconds on Pinterest makes my breathing shallow. It reminds me of a friend who once asked, as we clumsily pieced together some wedding-related craft, "Do you sometimes feel like you're supposed to be good at certain things just because you're a girl?" YES. But I'm not a Pinterest girl, or a Martha Stewart bride. And that is okay. I am committed to being myself through this process.
Earlier this month, I ran across an article on Grantland by Katie Baker, entitled, "Fear Your Inner Bridezilla." Well, that hooked me. I started to read and even though I was alone I nodded vigorously and muttered under my breath and maybe even uttered a guttural noise or two because finally, finally, someone had put my prime frustration into words:
"... it's hard to find a decent middle ground. There's the addicting terror-reign of the bridal magazines and the 'style shoot' blogs with their checklists - three months out, time to order the monogrammed napkins and find a good dermatologist! - and their I-agree-with-your-mother views on etiquette and protocol and the necessity of registering for expensive silverware. Another thing I keep forgetting to do. // Search out a less intense demographic, though, and it doesn't take long to get overwhelmed by the 'I got married in my basement with eight of our closest friends and all the readings were obscure Robert Bolano passages and my husband cooked the food from scratch and we planted a garden in lieu of gifts, DON'T buy into the wedding industrial complex' crowd. The barrier to entry there often seems equally daunting... // The result of trying to find an acceptable spot at the center is that I've found myself in a place where you can't believe people travel to a monastery in central Italy for affordable wedding gowns, ha ha, those silly people, while debating photo-booth-or-taco-truck budgetary concerns over a Tuesday dinner." [emphasis mine]
Trying to find an acceptable spot at the center. A decent middle ground.
Frugality. Simplicity. Low-maintenance-ness. Peace. Those are words and ideals that I'm doing my best to cling to, words and ideals that I think he and I strive to embody in our life together. We're doing a decent job of it in this, keeping down costs, asking friends to help, cutting out what we don't need or want. But I can see how the wedding industry, the big giant glob of icing and lace and Pinterest crafts and bottom lines that our society has forged, can really try its best to do a number on those ideals, even when you're paying attention.
We each have big, boisterous, beloved families and friends who will come from near and far. I'm so excited to see them all, to celebrate. We're getting married at my church, where my grandparents and parents got married, a place and its people that always hug my neck and have embraced my future husband. There isn't another aisle that I would choose to walk down (forget the fact that the church has two aisles). And yet something inside me wishes that we could join the ranks of the small backyard wedding crowd, with a potluck and chairs sinking into the muddy grass. A nice (stately) church leads to a nice (fancy) venue leads to nice (pricey) food. It's going to be great, and I'm really happy with how it's all coming together, but - earlier this week I called my parents and uttered into the air a number that I never imagined would leave my lips except in regards to grad school tuition. How do I handle that? How do we handle that? How do we hold that tension? Where's that middle ground?
I don't have an answer to that question and I don't know if I will. I might have to let it lie there for awhile. But I'm glad people like Katie Baker are talking about it. I'm glad I'm not the only one who wishes for it. And I hope that one day, middle ground might somehow climb to the top.
He and I are truly lucky to each love our own family and the family we're marrying into. It makes the stressful parts of this feel loads more manageable, and it makes the future that much more exciting.
As my mother and I drove back from the dress store in November, I remember saying:
"Nothing bad is allowed to happen in the next eleven months."
I was half-joking, half-not. That's how I feel too often in life - on edge or anxious about one thing or another - but it suddenly felt compacted into this short-yet-long amount of time leading up to a day when everything is supposed to be "perfect," (ha ha) ergo, nothing bad is allowed to happen in the next eleven months.
But a week later, something bad happened. Something terrible and heartbreaking and sad. And living into it and living after it brought me back to the most important elements of life, family, this pact that he and I have made, will make:
We are here for each other. There is no perfect day, no perfect time or way for anything to happen. Whether it's a wedding or a funeral or an ordinary day, we are here for each other. That's the gift we have to give. That's the point. That's why we celebrate.
In the midst of it all, my heart dwells on that truth, and I am glad and thankful.
What about you? What was/is the lead-up to your wedding like? I'd love to hear thoughts, ideas, suggestions, experiences...