Planning a wedding challenges even the most avid simplicity advocate. While my daughter’s upcoming wedding is being kept intentionally small, there are a lot of details to work out. Especially since it will happen four states away. Where can she get a final press on her bridal gown? What decorations can be achieved without lots of shipping or hauling ? What time should the bridesmaids meet to have time for makeup, hair and to get dressed for photos? When will the guys meet and get ready without bumping into the ladies? Which photos can be taken ahead of time? Who will usher people to their seats? Who will guide in latecomers after the ushers join the bridal party? How will all the transitions be handled? Who’s picking up the extra ice? How many people will drink coffee versus ice tea? Red versus white wine? Not to mention their choosing vows, various songs, special announcements.
For an event that comes only once in a lifetime and for which one’s daughter has been dreaming of forever, it seems important to be attentive to such details. And yet, to remain focused on the significance of the event. My daughter who just last week was stepping onto a school bus, and just yesterday was driving her first car and only hours ago was studying abroad and then graduating college is about to stand before God, their parents, family and friends and make an incredible promise…”to have and to hold, for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part.” There’s nothing simple about that. So in all the detailed planning, perhaps we can set apart this special milestone in their lives in a way that is memorable and worthy of their commitment.
“Those are my favorite kind of wedding rings,” he said. “You can tell where they came from.” I was standing at the tall wooden counter of a “party store” in a small rural town. My friend and I stopped in for a cup of coffee and were surprised at the variety of items they stocked. The usual sweet and salty snacks were there, convenience items, hats, t-shirts, a hodgepodge of stuff. And at the front of the store were wicker baskets with a few fresh fruits and vegetables. The man running the place was probably in his mid 50’s, graying hair and a physique that belied his love of beer and burgers (or so I presumed). I expected him to be somewhat brusque, or at least apathetic to our craving for coffee when his pots were empty. But maybe he’d been given his fair dose of southern hospitality training. He willingly made a fresh pot for us, even though we were only buying 2, $1.00 cups. As I pulled out my money, he looked down and commented on my rings.
“What do you mean?” I asked, thinking about the many conversations my husband and I have about replacing them with something which reflects our personalities now. “Where do they come from?”
And he responded very sincerely. “From getting married young, before you had any money. My wife has the same kind. It’s my favorite.” His implication was that I’d stayed married to someone I fell in love with many years before. And the wedding band said it all. I nodded, unable to respond to such an unexpected and reflective observation.
Last week I went with my daughter as she chose a tailor to alter her wedding dress. The tailor pinned the dress to fit and created the bustle so we could see how it would look (and it was beautiful…like every time she tries it on). The experience was one step in many toward the final day which will be an intimate gathering of immediate family and close friends. They are keeping it small so they can talk with everyone and enjoy all aspects of their day. And less complicated also reduces the pre-wedding stress so they can enjoy the entire process as well as the celebration.
How different this planning is from the Royal Wedding. This week invitations were sent to some 1900 people to attend their ceremony, including more than 1,000 of the bride and groom’s “closest family and friends,” plus members of the royal family, foreign royal families, members of various levels of government and more. The Queen is inviting about as many people from the Prince’s charities as we are in total.
The gold-stamped invitations included the dress code for attendees. The acceptable attire is uniform, morning coat or lounge suit. I didn’t know what that meant until I saw these examples. Apparently “morning dress” is something between formal and business wear and for women includes a hat and gloves. Where do you buy such a hat? No problem. The bride-to-be has enlisted a milliner to custom design hats for some of the guests.
Well okay. I guess the Queen’s in charge. In fact, it was reported that Her Majesty was “not amused” that some planning happened without her consult. This article stated that she called her grandson and said “Are you going to cycle to the Abbey?” I had to read a few lines before I realized that was an insult (from my pro-bike mindset, I thought for a second something creative was going on). The Prince, apparently, was preempting the planning with tweets and the Queen wasn’t happy. She wanted him to stop being “trendy” and be realistic. I mean really, why would his finance wish to ride in a car rather than the horse-drawn glass carriage? The Calvary Guards will be on duty anyway so using a car is wasteful (and bucking tradition). And by the way, she didn’t approve of a breakfast buffet. I don’t think the Queen does buffets.
Personally, I’d rather ride around in a hatchback checking out tailors without paparazzi and a steady flow of tweeting following every move. It seems the Royal Wedding is setting the tone for the type of marriage Prince William and Kate Middleton will have (very public, grounded in centuries of tradition and expectations). And I hope my daughter’s wedding also sets the tone for their life. If so, it’ll be thoughtful, prioritized, surrounded by people who care deeply for them as people, not for their “positions.” (And with a mother who would rather cycle to the Abbey than insist on a glass-drawn carriage.)
Enjoying the moment is an art, apparently. A lost art. And standing in the moment with others, sharing their excitement for the present stage they’re in might be an archeological rarity. You know the routine. You’ve been dating someone for awhile and people start asking “when are you getting engaged?” Then you make the big announcement and it’s instantly “Have you set the date?” And before you’ve barely walked down the isle, “When are you starting a family?” I remember thinking, “Hello…can I have two seconds to adjust to THIS thing first?” It’s like a twisted game of leapfrog.
Well, it’s been a long time since people wondered about our next steps in family planning so I thought this crazy business was behind me. But no! I’m now learning that this time-worn tradition is never outdated. My daughter recently got engaged. We’re enjoying wedding planning. I’m accepting a new identity to come, mother (um) in-law. And suddenly, people are saying, “You’re going to be a grandma, soon!”
What?! I am? Do they know something I don’t? I mean I know news on Facebook travels fast but I think I’d be among the first to know if she were pregnant. NO…I am NOT going to be a grandma soon so don’t throw that term around so loosely. Right now I have a daughter getting married okay? There are plenty of special moments to savor in this stage so I’ll kindly thank you to just delight in them with me. And when the time does come (eventually), it’ll be good and right and I’ll be excited to share the news with you. Just as long as you don’t bring up the word “great-grandmother!”
As a wintry mix began to settle in and friends prepared to hunker down for the night in hopes of being stuck at home tomorrow, we put on our Michigan mindset and traveled 40 miles to meet our daughter and her fiancé for dinner. It may be January. There may be a winter advisory out. Schools may have been canceled since the morning before even a flake had hit the ground but our heads and hearts were focused on a (hopefully) much warmer night next summer when they will be married. And details needed sorting. As one of only two groups in the restaurant, we sat and talked, discussed and laughed, listened and shared ideas. The coffee kept flowing. We could see the snowflakes getting bigger and falling faster out the window. But we’re all from the north and the weather never interrupted our conversation. The snow might cancel classes, close stores, prevent deliveries, cause a run on wine and bread but it couldn’t freeze plans to ensure a memorable event celebrating the union of two extraordinary people.
There are lots of storms to get through in life, too. Some which never fully come to fruition but cause a lot of panic. Some which do come and chill us to the bone. No matter what the kind, I prefer to draw close to people I love and be warmed by a shared hope. Hope and anticipation for another day coming that will be a new beginning. Like a wedding in July.
Yesterday was our 26th wedding anniversary. Sometimes birthdays, holidays, anniversaries and the like pass without much thought. Last year, we were a couple of weeks away from the biggest move of our life when our 25th rolled around. Even though it’s supposed to be a milestone anniversary, we barely took note in the daze of packing, selling our house, wrapping up accounts and loose ends, saying goodbye to friends. Thankfully, our two children graciously pulled together a gathering of friends and family to surprise us and help us celebrate.
This year was different. When I woke up yesterday I didn’t rush through my morning routine. Instead, I eased into the day thought about the incredible victory of 26 years of marriage, especially having started so young, and decided not to rush it. I called work to tell them I’d be in late and my husband and I went to breakfast together. I had fried green tomatoes with scramble eggs and ham, a tribute to our new southern home and in southern fashion we lingered and talked about our life together.
Were we where we wanted to be at this point in our lives? Not exactly. But were we happy? That was a mostly yes. Through all of life’s major events and transitions so far, including making a wholesale transition at mid-life, we have continued to evolve as individuals without losing who we are as a couple. That’s not easy to do. And it’s not without compromise. But tell me, how else it can happen?
There are times when we say, “if we could go back…” But at the same time, after 26 years of doing life together there is such a depth of knowing someone that can’t be gained in a rush. And a greater comfort in granting each other more time and space to enjoy the things which differentiate us without losing time and space to be together doing things we both love. It takes years to experience and modify communication styles in order that the intent of a message actually matches the impact of chosen words in healthy ways. And the wisdom that comes after enough battles to know what’s really worth having a fight over is only gained with time. In retrospect, I wouldn’t want to go back. No matter how you play your cards, some of the richness of a mature marriage simply can’t be gained with different decisions. It just takes time. So we celebrated time, 26 years to be exact, all day. And today…the journey continues.