On Saturday, I saw a woman run out in front of traffic. She was a bride and it was her wedding photographer’s idea. “Go for it! The cars aren’t coming,” he yelled, lying. She looked doubtful but she hiked up her white skirts and ran. Furious Toronto drivers honked but I think he got his shot. This bride made me think of my friend Leah. Leah is planning her own wedding and she has reached the point where it has stopped being fun and has started to become a bad dream she just wishes were over. Leah should be the perfect person to plan her own wedding: she likes parties, she loves getting dressed up, she loves cake and she is a super organized project manager. But she is one month out from her wedding and ready to throw herself into traffic, maybe in her wedding gown.
What possesses us to do this to ourselves and our loved ones? And how can it be so hard? Weddings are basically all the same thing: ceremony, dinner, speeches (one good, three boring, one incredibly embarrassing), dancing to Kool and the Gang and bam, you’re married. But there are endless variations of how to be a couple. Every couple I know has its own idiosyncrasies. My friend Dana knows that the only way her fiancé will be happy is, if at any time he wants to, he can drop anything and go for a bike ride. Asking him not to bike is like asking someone who just drank a Big Gulp not to pee. It’s not that he wants to go for a bike ride, it’s that he physically needs to. How do you reflect that in the ceremony? The struggle is trying to fit the endless variations of coupling that we negotiate for ourselves with our partners into this very limited structure. My friend Crystal summed it up perfectly: it may be cookie cutter, but it’s your cookie.
But of course that’s not the only hurdle. Even if you’ve negotiated how your wedding can simultaneously be a wedding and at the same time be your wedding, you come up against the great creator of stress in wedding planning: everyone involved. “Everyone thinks this day is about them,” Leah says. “Don’t they know it’s supposed to be about me?!” Lisa Poole, wedding planner for Neon Amazon knows all about the cause of wedding stress: “Expectations. Expectations are the main cause of wedding stress.” But I thought it was flower arrangements? “No, it’s expectations. People expect a plus one, people expect a midnight buffet, people expect a seat at the head table, people expect to be able to make a speech, people expect a first dance, and a thank you note. Managing all of the expectations can become overwhelming.” So what can we do? “Understand that not everyone can be happy. You have to plan it knowing that you can’t please everyone.”
Honestly, how could planning a wedding not be incredibly stressful? Look at the themes a wedding combines: sex, love, commitment, family, money, food, fashion and alcohol. You could take any one of those topics, throw it in the middle of a group of strangers and it would immediately start a violent opinion fight club. And yet, we keep doing it. There has to be some value in going through such a stressful obstacle course with your partner and his or her family. There has to be some value in calmly telling your future father-in-law that no he cannot be the DJ at the wedding. The danger and conflict is what makes the final commitment real. That’s why that bride ran across University Avenue. She saw the cars coming but she took a chance anyway.
Written By: Lori Isber