Girl Talk: My “I Do” Nightmare

“Shut up, shut up, shut up!” I squealed, wondering inwardly why those were the only words I could muster.

I placed my hands on Alex’s trembling shoulders and pulled him to his feet. “Of course,” I whispered, accepting his proposal. As we clung to one another, spectators faded away and elation swelled.

I was able to politely ignore his request that I wear a Ukrainian peasant dress rather than a gown, as he overlooked my insistence that we save on wedding bands by simply tattooing our rings on.

Alex swept me off to a romantic dinner at a restaurant I had wanted to try for months. We basked in our excitement while I stared at the perfect, glistening ruby on my finger. He did so well. We laughed, giggled, snuggled in a private booth and sipped the complimentary champagne from the bartender. Everything felt perfect.

It was April, and as the days passed, we chatted about where we would get married and when we would have our engagement party. We waxed poetically about where we would honeymoon. In the broad strokes, we seemed blissfully on the same page about our wedding. But as soon we started getting into details, I became vividly aware that we weren’t even reading from the same book.

See, Alex is a Russian Jew whose family came to this country in the early 1990s. English is his second language; Brooklyn is his home; and struggling financially is how he has always tasted life. I, on the other hand, was raised in an affluent Southern California community and landed a managerial job at my dad’s company that netted me six figures a year until I quit in a misguided moment of fury. Add on top of it all that, Alex and I are in two different seasons of life. We have very different visions of what a rocking wedding looks like. And our friends and families’ differing visions are magnified ten fold.

And there was another issue, too: how to pay for this wedding. Alex and I are both struggling to find good jobs. I’m working temporary admin jobs to pay for a recent surgery (removing massive breast implants I had put in during my wild years) and attending school full-time. Alex is slaving away at a tiny architecture firm being paid half of what he is worth and supporting our household on his meager salary. I am not complaining—this is simply the reality of our situation. I have a very comfortable life and am blissfully in love.

My natural solution was to ask my dad for help. Years ago, I would have thought nothing of asking him for $30K to $50K. But in the recession, the hammer fell, the bubble burst, the light bulb exploded, the ball dropped. Insert your cliché stomach-dropping sound effect here. My father’s financial firm failed, a fatality of the recession. He has floundered financially, though recently he had hit supposed pay dirt importing and selling high-quality artificial turf from China amidst the rising water prices in Southern California. I hoped, hoped, hoped he’d be able to give Alex and me a generous amount to plan our wedding.

“Hi Dad!” I oozed cheerfully, calling him on the phone.

“Hi sweetie, how are you?” he asked.

We exchanged niceties and he told me about his growing business ventures. I congratulated him and then he said he needed to go. I hung up with a growing sense of unease. But Alex and I carried on with our demi-planning.

A week later, I tried again. This time I barreled into talking about wedding costs and how much my younger sister’s nuptials had set him back. My dad responded that it was a different time and that when the time came, he hoped he would be able to help us. I kept up the cheery facade until I hung up and dissolved in tears and hysterics, while Alex tried to discern what had happened. I called my mother hoping she would step in and help, but she, too, is struggling to make ends meet. Of course, we are all bound to the failing economy. How I was surprised by this outcome, I do not know.

We were on our own—we’d be melding our vastly differing cultural standpoints with no financial backing. All of a sudden, wedding planning started to feel like a rodeo.

But something funny happened when it became clear that we weren’t getting financial help for the wedding. We could forget about our friends and families’ expectations and just fight the much smaller battles of what mattered to us. Not that these were small things.

Initially, we disagreed on the number of guests we would invite. Alex wanted to rent a house in the woods and invite 20 or 30 of our close friends and family. My father is one of 12 children; my family guest list alone is well above 60. We argued about wedding colors—I tend to dress in black while he likes bright colors. I wanted to have a black and white wedding, which he decreed would be more like a funeral. I told him I would wear a red dress and he informed me that I would be wearing white.

He has not been to the number of weddings that I have and is enchanted with the idea of the traditions. I am a tattooed freak who tends to shun what is the norm and run quickly the other way, loudly and with fervor. I have discovered who I am and while I might not be everyone’s taste, I think I have turned out pretty darn cool. My largest fear for our wedding is that it will end up being a cookie-cutter catastrophe as we attempt to ape that which those before us have done with a painfully small budget.

The wonderful thing about planning a wedding with financial limits is that it forces you to take each detail very seriously and get creative. We are making our own invitations and centerpieces. My father and his friends will serve as the house band, with a few of my extremely talented cousins sitting in for solo sets. My brother, a fabulous DJ, will round out the lineup with his dope beats. We will have a beer-and-wine hosted bar, and our toast will be comprised of either champagne or vodka, depending on which culture you hail from.

We are currently arguing over my hatred of wedding flowers and desire to have a brooch bouquet and his appreciation for foliage; my desire for a tiny cake with the option of cupcakes and his appreciation of multi-tier tragedies.

All in all, things are moving along a bit more smoothly and we have learned to choose our battles. I interviewed him for our wedding blog and he opened up to me. The conversation served as an illuminating interaction that helped us to get on the same page. Subsequently,

I was able to politely ignore his request that I wear a Ukrainian peasant dress rather than a gown, as he overlooked my insistence that we save on wedding bands by simply tattooing our rings on.

Family on both sides have expressed concerns over our choice of venue, groomsmen attire, menu and the like. But we are steadfast and resolute that we are going to do this our way. Once we figure out exactly what that is.

Photo: iStockphoto

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