Weddings are wonderful.
I almost always cry, but in a good way. Partially just to get Things 1 and 2 to roll their eyes. Partially because I remember my own wedding (which will be 20 years ago this May), and I remember the sense of excitement and anticipation. Partially in practice for when the Things get married, because I’ll probably be a sobbing puddle of emotional embarrassment from the moment the engagement is announced until the cake is cut at the reception.
We’ve got two family weddings coming up in the next few months, one on each side of the family. I love the celebration of family, the happiness, the optimism and the cake.
I have one standard piece of advice for couples getting married, and I’ll share it here. It’s very simple.
The wedding is about the two of you. Period. End of story.
It doesn’t matter what your: mother, sister, best friend, cousin, niece, nephew, brother, sister-in-law, future in-laws (or outlaws), coworkers, clerk at the bridal shop, clerk at the 7-11, minister, cat or second grade teacher think about your wedding plans.
This is you and one other person, building a new life together because you love each other. You want to share the ups and downs, the highs and lows, the Ben and Jerry’s.
The trappings don’t really matter. Religious ceremony or civil. Dress with a 20-foot lacy train or jeans and sneakers. Attendants, junior attendants, ring bearers and flower girls or the Justice of the Peace and his wife. A secluded beach at sunset or city hall. None of that is what matters.
The cold hard truth: YOU are the only one is going to remember what the table favors were the day after the wedding.
All those quaint traditions you simply must abide by? Nope. If you don’t like them, don’t do them. Ignore them, or make up your own. I had my brother walk me down the aisle (which he did in fine style, with his own singular piece of advice), but I totally balked at the idea of being “given away.” I was 29 years old, and the tradition of using your daughter as an item of commerce just didn’t sit well with me. So we skipped it.
The taking of the new last name is a biggie. Again, on the verge of spinsterhood, I didn’t see any reason to change my name. My husband-to-be said as long as I was marrying him, he didn’t care what last name I used. But on the morning of the wedding, after discussing this at least three times, my mother’s minister called me at my mother’s house.
Question one: He would normally introduce us as “Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Loyall.” If I wasn’t taking Joe’s last name, how would he introduce us to the congregation? My response: I’m not changing my first name to Joseph or my last name to Loyall, so why don’t you just say I give to you the new couple? Oh, okay, he could do that.
Question two: If I wasn’t taking Joe’s last name, what would we name the children? My response: I’m not pregnant right now, so don’t worry about it. And then I hung up.
Because what the minister thought about what I called my hypothetical children wasn’t important. Not to the day, not to the marriage, not to my life.
When you say you’re getting married, people will crawl out of the woodwork to give you advice. Most of it is well-intentioned, which has nothing to do with whether it actually applies to you or not.
The day and the ceremony are about you and that one person who fills a spot you didn’t know was empty until you met them.
Don’t go into debt and don’t try to make everyone tangentially involved with the wedding happy.
Focus on what matters to the two of you, and let everything else go.
Note one: My brother’s magnificent advice. At the rehearsal, after telling me he was pretty sure the minister was actually a siding salesman in disguise, my brother took my hand and tucked it through his arm. He said, “My job is to make sure we travel the aisle at a dignified pace. I can walk you down the aisle, or I can walk you up the aisle, no questions asked, but we’re going to do it at a dignified pace.”
Note two: We hyphenated the Things last names. Don’t like it? Tough. Name your own kids whatever you want. And if you’re thinking “what will happen if one of the Things marries a man with a hyphenated last name, too?” Guess what? They’ll be adults! They get to make those decisions for themselves!
Note three: To Ben and Caroline, and to Janet and Nelson, I hope you all find as much happiness in marriage as I have.