Celebrating couples their way should be a tradition we all Prioritize
Congratulations, you’re engaged! What comes next? The simple answer is: whatever you want. Yet, some may tell you that you and your partner have officially signed up to take on a lengthy, pricey, and often exhausting to-do list. To name just a “few:”
- Scouting locations and choosing a date
- Making and remaking a guest list
- Sending the perfect Save the Dates and Invitations
- Scheduling an officiant to legally join you
- Settling on a theme and then finding the right décor to complement that theme
- Scheduling a photographer and taking the perfect engagement photos
- Attending a shower, or two, or ten…
- Searching for the perfect attire and rings
- Strategizing about seating arrangements
- Scheduling entertainment
- Making menu selections and choosing a cake
- Picking flowers and details
- Planning a honeymoon
- Going to Bachelor or Bachelorette parties
And, through it all, you’ll pull yourself in a million directions to make sure everyone you know who could possibly be involved in your wedding is satisfied with their role and feels good about your decisions. If you’re lucky, you’ll reach the end of your to-do list feeling just as good about your decisions as everyone else does. But, chances are, the bigger your event gets and the more people you aim to please, you’ll inevitably put at least some of your own priorities on the back burner and end up with an event that isn’t exactly what you – or your partner – wanted it to be.
Weddings are a big deal. They’re the ultimate show of love between two people who have found the one they want, for better or worse, to spend the rest of their lives with. What a wedding means at its core is widely accepted in theory, but in practice, that meaning can easily get lost in the fray.
The way a couple wants to kick start the rest of their forever can take a back seat to what is deemed appropriate, or desired, by their guests. Time they’d spend relishing in the major commitment they just made to each other ticks away as they focus on what can often feel like a showy performance they need to put on for everyone else. Happy energy can be drained by the exhaustion that comes from stretching yourself far too thin in far too little time for far too many people. I’ll argue that if the stars of this particular show aren’t happy when the final credits roll, it’s a show that hasn’t fulfilled its purpose.
There are few moments in our lives where we are justified in taking top billing for ourselves – because, well, to get through life in a way that truly lets you sleep at night, you have to think about other people. And in life’s big moments, people want to relish in the love and support of the family and friends who mean the most. However, weddings happen to be one of the few times where it IS okay to completely prioritize yourself and your partner, so let your wedding be an accurate depiction of how the two of you want to take that first step into the rest of your lives together. The people that truly love and support you are also going to realize that your wedding is about YOU and will cheer you on, whatever their designated role in the day may or may not be. If they won’t, well, that’s another story for another blog…
My husband and I charted a unique path to marriage from the outset. In particular, I never appreciated the idea that proposals are all about fawning over the bride-to-be while the groom-to-be does the heavy lifting and gets none of the accolades for making the same major commitment. What if a couple doesn’t include a bride? Or, what if it includes two of them?! The obvious problem with gender labeling aside, it takes the commitment of two people to make an engagement. It also takes ongoing work and dedication from two people to build a successful wedding and, more importantly, successful life every day after. It’s with that in mind that my now husband and I got engaged by proposing to each other. We both said yes, and we both exchanged rings. When we got married, those engagement rings became our wedding rings with a simple agreement that another exchange just wasn’t necessary.
We said “I do” on our three-year dating anniversary – why have two anniversaries when it’s that first one that brought us together in the first place and would always mean the most – in a private, non-religious ceremony with our parents and two good friends (who were also our photographers) in attendance. We had no precursory engagement photos, wedding showers, bachelorette parties, or bachelor parties by choice. We didn’t even want a wedding party or registry. When we got married, we had already been together for three years and living together for two and a half. We’d moved more than 800 miles across state lines together, owned property together, and already knew we were meant to be together forever. There was nothing we needed or wanted, other than to make things “official,” and that was the one and only theme we stuck with. Leading up to our ceremony, we got ready together and walked up to our officiant together, and we took our vows and lit candles together in a beautiful outdoor setting.
As husband and wife, we joined 30 of our family members and close friends who were waiting for us at the reception venue on site. We had time to talk and laugh with everyone, and time to dance. Plus we had time to eat! and drink! We also had time to be on our own, without feeling the constant need to impress, entertain, or otherwise scramble. It was our day, and we were there for it in its entirety. Even though we got several questions throughout our planning process from people who just weren’t used to our way of doing things – “wait, how does that work?”… “what do you mean a private ceremony?”… “so, I really won’t be part of that?” – I think people ended up appreciating our wedding for what it was.
Our wedding day was an event designed by us. For us. In celebration of us and what our life was and what it will continue to be. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.
There isn’t one right way of doing things when it comes to weddings. All of us are different and want different things, and as we express our authentic desires on our day, we help evolve the concept of what a wedding day can look like. If both people in a marrying couple want a large, traditional, extravagant wedding with a large guest list, we hope they have their best day ever. But if even one of them doesn’t, there are so many alternatives to make the day feel like a balance between the options.
There’s a stigma associated with elopements, micro or intimate weddings, and any exchange of vows that goes against the so-called grain. The truth is, we need to put an end to the stigma and welcome alternative weddings into the new norm. Couples don’t need to choose an elopement only if they’re in a rush, or because they have something to hide, or because they have a child on the way. In fact, they might choose a smaller-scale wedding because they offer a world full of possibilities that sticking to the traditional script never will. When you’re making a commitment as big as marriage, you owe it to yourself to seek out the possibilities and choose the one that best fits you and your partner. Do it, and celebrate the fact that you did.