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Hitched: How To Get Married Without Being An A**hole

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How not to be a terrible presence at your friend's wedding. Read More »

The amazing thing about life is how many complete assholes manage to find someone willing to put up with their bullshit and marry them. When I was a single person, the thing that crushed me the most when I was feeling lonely wasn’t that I thought I’d never find a spouse. It was that Donald Trump did. Three times. Ben Roethlisberger? Totally married. Michele Bachmann! Married to another asshole. Michael Vick? Just spent $300,000 on his wedding this weekend. The “Real Housewives“? They are, by definition, married. I always wonder why self-help books and matchmaker shows bother shaming perfectly nice people into becoming “marriage material” when so many complete shits of human beings didn’t change a thing about themselves and still found love.

Of course, married assholes don’t have to be famous. They can be these assholes, who had a three-day wedding celebration that they made their guests cook and pay for. They could be this asshole, who dumped a bridesmaid because she was fat. Assholes get married all the time; sometimes because they were assholes before they got married. And sometimes the wedding process turns otherwise lovely people into assholes. The whole process is practically designed to do that to people.

If you were already an asshole and you’re getting married, I probably can’t help you beyond telling you I really, really hope you are at least a rich asshole who is going to throw a really good party for all the friends you think you have. But if you think the wedding process is turning you into an asshole, I will try to offer some words of advice, as I have now been married for ten and a half weeks and thereby am an expert on it, having planned exactly one wedding in my life.

The first thing that I will advise you to do is realize that getting married, while very exciting and personal for you, is not exactly unusual. And by “not exactly unusual,” I mean, “real fucking common.” Be totally excited about your wedding, because it is a really important thing you’re doing. But also realize the context of what you’re doing: you are going where the whole world has gone before. Which means that you have a world of resources at your fingertips, so ask people about their weddings!

Your friends and neighbors have already forgotten to order the napkins, so they can tell you to remember to order the napkins! They can help you think of creative officiant ideas and suggest pretty music for your ceremony. You don’t have to take all the advice, or even listen to it if it’s unsolicited, but keeping in mind the fact that people have already done this thing you’re doing like a million times can take some of the pressure off — because when you’re engaged, you can totally succumb to the feeling that you are the only wedding-haver ever, and so yours has to be the most and the best and the whateverest.

In that same vein, don’t assume that everyone cares as much about your wedding as you do. Probably your parents do, and your grandparents and other people who changed your diapers on the regular. They probably want to hear a lot of unsolicited information about the vintage bicycle design on your party favors. But nobody else does, really. Even your wedding party doesn’t really care all that much.

I mean, if they are nice and loving friends, which I hope they are, they will want to help you and will appreciate being given reasonable tasks to do because that’s what they’re there for; and it’s a fun party they’re probably looking forward to. So sure, they want to hear about the glow-in-the-dark centerpieces … once. They don’t want to go out drinking on Friday night and spend the whole evening hearing you shout over the band about bowties. Be conscious of the amount of time you spend talking about your wedding, and make sure you give your friends the listening ear they need for their life issues.

Which leads me to the thing I think I was the biggest asshole about when I was planning my wedding, which is complaining about planning and having a wedding while planning and having a wedding. I was all, oh, feminist weddings can’t be like this and I can’t change my name because of this thing and look how feminist my wedding is but it’s still a wedding and wahhhhh. Sometimes intellectual discussions about the sociocultural implications of marriage are awesome. And sometimes you make your friends have them with you every time you go to the bar or log into Facebook. (Sorry, my 400 closest Facebook friends.)

But you know, I’ve seen it happen with all types of folks: you can’t find a dress that looks like this or your parents only gave you this much money or oh horror of horrors, the venue you wanted is booked. Or whatever. Certainly feel free to express your frustration about these things. Once or twice. And then let it go because you’ve probably got invitations to fold or something.

What do you do if you find yourself complaining and having a really hard time with the planning and execution of your wedding — which can be incredibly stressful whether you’re planning a courthouse ‘do with lunch at the Olive Garden or a full-tilt-Catholic-extravaganza or a mixed-religion hippie-fest? You delegate tasks to other people who are capable of doing them.

For mine and Patrick’s wedding, what we really needed most from our wedding party was for them to help us set up and decorate our venue on the day of. When I laid down in bed at night and worried about the wedding, that’s what stressed me most — that we wouldn’t be able to get everything set up and looking nice. So we asked our wedding party to help us out in advance with that. Other people might need help making party favors or scouting flower shops or park sites from far away.

Whatever it is, if you ask nicely and don’t overload people (once more, with feeling: if you ask nicely and don’t overload people!) someone you know almost certainly can and will help you with a few small tasks or one big one. If you’re unsure what people can handle? Use your words. Say: “Hey, friend/family member. I need some help with wedding things in the next two months. Are you available to help out with anything, and if so, what do you think you can offer, time-wise?” And then you will be less stressed out and therefore less of an asshole.

Speaking of help: weddings happen to couples. Does that seem obvious? It seems to escape some people. I have known plenty of engaged folks wherein one partner was shouldering all of the responsibility, and the other partner barely shows up to taste cake when they’re asked. Sure, maybe one of you really is better at logistical things or party planning; that doesn’t mean the other one gets to couch it until the big day.

We’ve all been to weddings where it felt like it was only about one person, and not the partnership. Don’t be the asshole who has that wedding — and if you’re kind of having that wedding, I would ask you to seriously evaluate why you want to be married to someone who won’t even book a deejay or price napkins for 15 minutes. Some parts of wedding planning will be boring as hell and totally uninteresting to one or both partners—to me, that means both people need to step up and share the shitty parts, so that when the big day comes, it feels like a collaboration and not a solo album.

When it comes to the people who are helping you with your wedding, whether they’re family members or close friends or wedding party folks, leave them alone about they way they look. You get to tell your wedding party what to wear, and they agree that you can do that, and that’s pretty much it. Pregnant maid-of-honor? So what. Tattoos showing through strappy sandals? Nobody will notice. Cankles and bingo arms aren’t going to blind anyone who looks at your wedding photo album. Beards on groomsmen? Deal with it. People look the way they look every day of their lives — including your wedding day. You don’t get to tell people to cover up the people they are the other 364 days of the year. And if you do want to do that, I guess I have to wonder: why do you want these gross tattooed, fat, pregnant, bearded people around, anyway, since they don’t fit into your aesthetic format?

My last piece of advice may seem to go counter to what I’ve written here. But it doesn’t. Here it is: own the fact that you’re getting married, love the fact that you’re getting married, and if people give you any kind of shit about it, know that haters are just going to hate. When I say this, I mean that your wedding is not going to make everyone else happy. It’s probably not the wedding your dad would have planned; your mother-in-law might really hate lilac, and you love it, and so the fuck what lady, the wedding party’s wearing lilac!

So my final caveat: some people are going to be assholes to you about your wedding. Your future father-in-law is going to want to walk in this way instead of this other way and it’s going to seem like the most important thing that ever happened in his whole life if you don’t do it like he says. Ignore him. Or your aunt will never let you forget that you didn’t serve communion at the ceremony. Tune her out. Your brother will insist on bringing his six-month-old quintuplets and take it as a personal offense if you don’t make a no-kids exception for him. He’s the rude one; you’re not. These things will happen.

Listen to people you love and trust most, because they will probably tell you if you’re really turning into a wedding asshole. And you will know in your heart if they are right — five showers probably is too many showers; nobody wants to go to six tuxedo fittings or feel obligated to drop $400 on your bachelor party.

But in the end, your wedding is your fun party and a celebration of your partnership with someone you love. If you really have to be an asshole about it, at least you won’t be alone.

Contact the author of this post at Andrea.Grimes@gmail.com.

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