Cynicism is part of who I am. I’m fairly sure I came out of the womb mid-eye roll. My sense of humour has earned me the prestigious title at work of “worst bride ever” due to my general pessimism towards my wedding day and utter lack of patience with the whole organisation process. Most of the time, it’s met with a (usually jovial) “at least you’re getting married” or “at least you’re not single” over the water cooler. Let me be clear on that one for a minute; I feel incredibly lucky to be getting married in the way I am. I am fortunate enough to be in a relationship which is healthy, stable and (for the most part), happy. I am fortunate enough to be legally allowed to marry the person I want to, doing so without any stigma attached to it, and I am so lucky to be financially stable enough to have the wedding that myself and my fiance want. This does not however, come with a God-given duty to be exponentially happy about it for every second of every day.
There’s a growing trend on social media amongst parents, particularly mums, in which they’re supporting each other and sharing the times when they don’t quite get it right or the moments when they panic and think they’re the worst parent in the world. Now, I’m not a parent, so I don’t profess to understand anything about being an “un-mumsy mum”, or why anyone would care whether your baby gets its milk from a boob or a bottle, but from what I’ve seen – surely it isn’t a bad thing to be honest about how you’re feeling. Giovanna Fletcher, an author I love, is a really big advocate of this and is always raising the point that just because she may have moments of struggle or self-doubt, it doesn’t nullify her feeling of being lucky to be a parent. Again, I’m not a parent and I don’t believe for a second that planning a big lavish party for yourself and your spouse is in any way as difficult or emotionally challenging as keeping an actual human being alive, but I do know it’s really effing stressful; and not something I should have to endure in silence because I “should be glad I’ve got the ring”.
The idea for this post came to me ages ago and I’ve gone back and forth over whether to write it, for fear of looking ungrateful about the fact that I’m planning this seemingly perfect wedding and marrying my school sweetheart. But, somewhere around one a.m. yesterday when I was fighting back tears and trying to slow my breathing down so I could get some sleep ahead of my busy day at work, and trying to switch off the video of the empty ceremony room which was playing on a loop in my head; it occurred to me that other people might feel like this, and might also be telling themselves “I have no right to feel overwhelmed by this because it’s what I’ve always dreamed of”. I realise that sounds completely dramatic, but unfortunately that’s where I was at that night, and not for the first time.
People judge weddings, that’s accepted as a fact. We all do it, women probably more so, and I’ve made the catastrophic error of following my photographer and venue on Instagram. So, every time there’s a new wedding of course I’m zooming in on every picture, critiquing every angle of the dress, how the flowers are arranged, the place settings, everything. I know, I need to get a life, and much like Googling your unusual symptoms, it’s a dangerous game which I realised the hard way last week when I fell completely in love with a particular bride. I’m not going to name her and come across as a weird stalker, but she was absolutely unreal. Her wedding was at my venue and, if I’m honest, I don’t think mine is going to top that; plus, after midnight on a school night, my rational faculties of “but everyone’s wedding is unique to that couple, all brides are beautiful” were off the clock. So what did I do? I did what any irrational, tired woman would do, and I stalked her Instagram. I made it as far back as her engagement party when the heart palpitations started. She looked unbelievably happy and sickeningly in love in every shot – not a hair out of place, glowing at her hen party, posting about how much she was enjoying the wedding planning with her beautiful, supportive friends and family, and here I was crying in the middle of the night about how my wedding is going to be a failure which upsets loads of people in the process and that I probably can’t actually afford, for the umpteenth time.
Instagram is a dangerous place and, when I’ve had enough sleep, I know that the vast majority of posts don’t show the whole truth. This bride almost certainly will have cried over her wedding. She will have had vicious rows with her own and her fiance’s families over the guest list, of course she will have worried about money and definitely will have experienced the lingering guilt in the pit of her stomach over not being able to include her great aunt’s cousin once removed, who her parents tell her is very upset and hurt at not getting an invite. I have enjoyed planning my wedding and I am extremely excited for the day itself, but it is absolutely peppered with guilt about spending my own money, asking other people to spend money, worry about who will talk to who and whether people will be comfortable, and total fear and blind panic about what people are going to think about it on the day and what’s being said behind my back. Hopefully other people feel like this too and this doesn’t turn into a viral post in which I’m labelled a ‘bridezilla’ like the woman who asked guests to pay an entry fee to come to the wedding (honestly, once you tot up the final bill – not a terrible idea). As I said at the start, this does not take away from my ability to enjoy other elements of the process, but a friendly word of advice to anyone who finds themselves in the presence of a bride or groom who is struggling with it, the helpful thing to do is to sympathise and/or offer to help; and absolutely does not include saying any of the following*:
“You’re spending HOW much? That’s obscene!”
“You should just elope”
“Divorce is even more expensive, you know.”
“I eloped, it was so much easier”
“I LOVED planning my wedding it was amazing from the second we got engaged”
“Well I don’t feel like I need a ring to justify my relationship but some people need the validation I suppose”
“It’s just an expensive piece of paper”
“Your family sound like a nightmare, I’m so glad mine aren’t like that”
“It’s just so hetero-normative getting married like that”
“I would never take my husband’s name, it’s so pointless, outdated and sexist”
“Do you know how many holidays that could pay for?”
“Couldn’t you do it later in the day? I’ll be so rushed getting ready for that time”
“I know I RSVP’d back in November, but something else has come up…”
*Returning an RSVP with additional names added who were not on the original invite*
“I’m just waiting for my invite in the post hahahaha!”
“I know it’s your day but can’t I just -”
“But you have to do it that way it’s tradition”
“You’re NOT getting married in a Church?”
*Not RSVP-ing at all*
“I don’t know why you’re bothering with chair covers, that’s a pointless expense”
“But I don’t like that song, you have to have music everyone likes”
*a non-exhaustive list of things which have been said, directly to my face.