I consumed almost no wedding-related media in the eight or so months between when Patrick and I got drunk at the lake and decided to get engaged and when we actually tied the knot on April 21, 2012. I came to like Offbeat Bride and its attendant forums and creative user group, though I was ultimately put off by its (I think unavoidable) preciousness. Not surprisingly, I found the full-throttle focus of wedding-related magazines and sites to be frustrating and demoralizing rather than helpful.
Instead of answering actual questions I had about weddings — about how much should it cost to feed 80 people? Why is it so hard to find tea-length wedding dresses? What’s the history behind women being “given away”? — I was being given solutions to problems I didn’t know I had: for starters, I was almost certainly too fat. And my hair was too short. My bridesmaids (who would obviously be all women) either should or shouldn’t wear matching dresses, but whatever I decided would be ultimately wrong according to somebody. I hadn’t given enough thought to napkin rings and their very important role in the formal place settings my guests would be wholly unable to enjoy themselves without. I was already behind on making the 6,000 origami swans that I was previously unaware I needed to personally hand-craft. The list grew and grew.
And yet, almost all of the quandaries posed by wedding-focused magazines and websites can be boiled down to some version of “Should I do this thing that would make me and my partner happy, or should I do it how my father, my priest, society or the guy behind the counter at 7-11 wants me to do it?”
The answer to that question is the same every time, if you ask me: do what you want to do if it doesn’t seriously inconvenience somebody else. That means: stay fat. Wear flats. Serve an all-vegan menu. Get married outside in Texas in June. Make your dog the ring bearer. Use a playlist rather than a DJ. Fuck the origami swans. (I mean, don’t actually fuck the origami swans because paper cuts.)
You don’t have to invite your estranged, alcoholic mother. You don’t have to have a Catholic service because it’s important to Grandpa. Your guests will survive without party favors.
And everything will be fine. I know because I stood up to my mother when she wanted me to invite a family member who had abused me when I was a child. (I don’t know if she knows about the abuse; if she reads Hitched, I guess she does now.) I was told repeatedly that this person was my blood; that weddings were about family. That this person’s other relatives would be very upset if I didn’t invite this person, and that this person’s relatives might make a scene if I didn’t invite this person.
I struggled with it for weeks and weeks; should I invite this person just so my mom would quit asking me about it? What if my family members really did cause a ruckus? Did I owe it to my family to make nice with someone who inflicted years of anguish and pain upon me? At one point, the argument was made that this person probably wouldn’t even come to my wedding, so I should just make the show of inviting them. About which I thought: if, from the get-go, someone is probably not even going to come to my wedding, what the fuck do I want to pretend to want them there for?
For a while, I stopped looking forward my own wedding because I thought I only had two options: invite the person and put up with their creepy presence on what should be a carefree and joyful day, or hurt my family members by prioritizing my happiness over theirs. I didn’t see the middle ground: don’t invite the person who hurt me, and let my family members decide whether they wanted to behave like grown-ass people for three straight hours.
Ultimately, I decided to ride out the emotional blackmail. I didn’t invite the offending person. I refused to engage questions about why. I told people it wasn’t up for debate. And here’s what happened: my invited family members came to the wedding and they had a great time and I have never, ever heard one more word on the subject.
Maybe I was lucky; maybe I avoided a scene by the skin of my happy-ass wedding day teeth. But I don’t regret making a risky decision that privileged the wedding I wanted to have — a wedding attended by people I love and who care about me in return — instead of the wedding other people wanted me to have.
I highly recommend contacting RAINN, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network if you, like a lot of us, need to talk to somebody about related issues.
Contact the author of this post at Andrea.Grimes@Gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter.