Monday, August 16, 2010

Assumptions

This post is very long, and somewhat ranty. I think this blog post was a long time in coming: the big reason I've spent my life dreading my own wedding. I want it recognized, though, that I love Ed and I want to marry him and spend my life with him: This is not an anti-marriage post, or even necessarily an anti-wedding post.

Since having gotten engaged exactly a month ago, Ed and I have done a lot of wedding planning. We've looked at a lot of wedding timelines that assume a minimum of a year-long engagement, and we've crossed off an inordinate number of those tasks, some of which should be "done" (if you will) up to a few weeks before the wedding (e.g., shopping for rings, getting them engraved, choosing bridesmaids dresses, etc.). But there are a lot of assumptions and presumptions about the bride, a significantly fewer but still various presumptions about the groom, and a lot of assumptions about Our Big Day. At the time of engagement, one would tell one's parents the happy news, if they didn't already know (although how they would know before it's become official is a mystery); one would submit an engagement photo to the newspapers (Who does that?), and keep up with thank you notes as gifts are received. And then the timeline begins nine to 12 months before the wedding. Yikes.

Admittedly, I suspect that many of these checklists/timelines are exhaustive such that there is recognition that not all affianced will do each item; for example, it will be suggested that you shop around for a videographer, if you decide to have one. So clearly these lists include ideas that will not be to every taste. But many assumptions are made based on the understanding that this singular day is thought to be - especially by the bride - to be the single most important day of her life. 

(For the record, as a child I distinctly remember being terrified of my own wedding. Not of being married, but of being the center of attention in a type of gown that I never wanted to wear, or even daydreamed about wearing, doing stereotypical cliched things that aren't to my liking. I was never a girly girl; I never wore makeup, nor had any desire to, nor did I even enjoy dressing up. I never missed dating in high school nor felt that I was missing out or lonely when I was single. And not once have I felt my biological clock ticking.)

Ed and I have been perusing a seemingly vast quantity of bridal magazines and advice books that presume that this is the day I've waited for my entire life. They presume things like I have a color scheme. They presume I want a color scheme. (I'm just picking colors I like, but I'm planning it out ahead of time. I don't care if the flowers don't match the bridesmaids dresses.) They presume I want a Father-Daughter dance. Or that I buy into the notion that the dress I wear sets the theme for the wedding.

It's presumed that:
  •  You'll put an engagement and/or wedding announcement in the newspaper, which works great if you've lived in your hometown or the area for your entire life, and/or you have family in the area. This doesn't work for either Ed or me, since we're both multiple-time transplants with family across the country (and in my case, the globe).
  • There will be engagement/bridal showers, which works great if you live in the same neck of the woods as your bridesmaids and family. My parents live 2,000 miles away. My bridesmaids are in New York, Boston, Utah, and San Francisco. One of my aunts lives in upstate New York, the other in Virginia. Ed's mother lives in (a different part of) Virginia; one aunt lives in California, and the other aunt lives in a third state. A bridal shower simply isn't feasible, even if I wanted one.
  • You'll be shopping with your bridesmaids, mother, and future mother-in-law, and having lunch or tea with them the week before the wedding. (See the previous bullet point about where we all live.) 
  • You're planning the wedding where you live. Thank God - seriously - that Ed has taken an interest in planning this wedding, because I couldn't plan it alone from across the country. Maid-of-Honor Maria and my mom have been helpful in offering advice and looking at dresses with me - and my bridesmaid have also been great in offering feedback - but when it comes to the details of flowers and cake, Ed and I are the ones who have to make those phone calls or send the e-mails.
What's frustrating is that nowhere is there any acknowledgement of any other possibility.

And some of the expectations! I bought The Little Book of Bridal Etiquette for the 21st Century, which extols common sense advice, but which includes advice such including blank RSVP cards so that the guests may write their own acceptance-or-regrets. Apparently giving guests the check-the-box format is tacky, but I don't believe that to be the case. The wait time between ceremony and reception is also to be avoided at all costs, but sometimes you just don't have that option.

Even better is The Bride's Thank-You Note Handbook, which arrived today. Originally published in 1968 and revised in 1985, it includes such helpful advice as, "When the gift is sent by a married couple the thank-you note may be addressed to either "Mr. and Mrs." or to the wife only" (3) and "[A]s with all gifts, the bride is obliged to send the thank-you note" (61). Why we would not address the thank you to both husband and wife is a bit of  a mystery. And why the groom doesn't help write the thank you notes is just outdated. (This book includes a list of example thank you notes based on an alphabetical gift list that ranges from a book light to a record album to opera tickets to a VCR. I really hope no one get us opera tickets.)

I am convinced that for a large segment of the bridal population, there are women who have spent their lives dreaming about their wedding day and spend hours poring over every aspect. I am also convinced that the rest of us just want to get everyone we love together, have a good time, and celebrate something like this happening - without all the stuffy, fussy details and presumptions. 

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