Today's overwrought weddings have us focused on all the wrong things.
By Susan SchneiderJuly 31, 2011
It never felt quite right to be making a living writing for wedding magazines. After all, I was a divorced single mom, whose own happily-ever-after had taken quite a detour. But it was a good job, so I tried not to think too deeply about the ironies.
The Perfect Dress. The Perfect Cake. The Perfect Day. I did have to grit my teeth over the constant repetition of that adjective. I knew from experience how a painstakingly planned wedding day can become a painful memory. My parents spent a substantial amount on my wedding, but even if they’d spent ten or a hundred times more, it wouldn’t have helped the outcome. My fiance and I had been together for four years when we made it official; looking back, I clearly see the problems we chose to ignore, the arguments that left us raw. But I convinced myself that these were proof of our passionate attachment – besides, everyone kept saying it was time. So we tied the knot. The photographs are gorgeous. We got the wedding right, but not the marriage.
After it ended, my career took me into bridal magazines. On the job, I quickly saw that most brides are overwhelmed, stressed out, and worried that their wedding won’t be up to standard. It bothered me to see them fret endlessly over just the right dress, color scheme, food, photography, and vehicle – a Cinderella horse and carriage? A silver vintage
I worry that the bridal industry’s emphasis on perfecting every last detail, which invariably involves hemorrhaging money, can lead to unrealistic expectations of marriage. In the best of circumstances, what a letdown to discover dishes in the sink, socks on the floor, and all those wedding bills to pay afterward. Not to mention more serious troubles like mine and my ex-husband’s, which were ultimately about a mutual inability to walk in each other’s shoes. Each of us needed the other to be something neither was, and we hurt each other even when we didn’t mean to. We weren’t able to take things with a grain of salt and a dash of humor. We certainly weren’t ready for real married life.
Maybe it’s time to take back the standards. Weddings should be about the basic underpinnings of our lives: love and commitment and family. A wedding is a life celebration so touching that I, speaking as a guest, usually end up with tears streaming down my face – I guess because we so rarely get to witness life’s real meaning.
Though my own marriage crumbled, my ex-husband and I have a great daughter. He has long since remarried and has another child. I’m happy that this half sibling and our daughter are close. For me, other relationships have come along, although not another marriage. But if I do marry again, this is what I vow: to embrace imperfection, to be kind, and to laugh a lot. I also vow not to blow what’s left of my retirement savings on a costly wedding.
I really do believe in fairy tale weddings, but instead of extolling the couple who splurge on a dozen “trees” made from orchids and Swarovski crystals, I celebrate the pair who incorporate their family traditions into their celebration. The bride who carries a simple bouquet of yellow roses in honor of her mother, who died the year before. The groom who commits to be the husband of the woman he loves and a dad to her three sons. And the wedding guests who keep the celebration going during a power outage in a tent by lighting candles and telling ghost stories.
To me, that’s the real stuff of fairy tale weddings, and who cares if you hold it at the local diner? If you’re in love and having a blast, it will be fabulous. Now that I’m not “selling” weddings anymore, I can appreciate them for what they really are: sweet and precious moments that ease us into our real lives, which will probably not be perfect, but will, if we’re lucky, be pretty happy all the same.