I'm an older bride, I know. Everything about planning this wedding reminds me of that. The first time I tried on dresses I told the sweet young thing helping me out, "Please do not show me any dresses that make me look like a princess or a cupcake. I'm not down with that." She obliged me, but I still hadn't found the grown up dress I was looking for so I moved on to the next bridal store.
It's not like I've done this before, either. Sure, this is my second marriage and the first was planned in 11 days with zero fanfare, no planning or doing anything together, and was more like a birthday party. I blame all that for the divorce.
KIDDING. I was just too young, too pressured to marry, and didn't even understand marriage yet. I was 23.
In the time since then, I have been a bridesmaid for friends, organized the food for the wedding of another friend, and been a guest. Each time, I've felt a pang of jealousy that I was missing something. Was it the white dress? The showers and games and parties people planned for me? Was it the fact that they had a glorious honeymoon planned afterward that didn't include a trip to Six Flags and one overnight in a cheap hotel?
I wish I were kidding about that last one. I am not.
Also, in that time, I have learned that it's not about the wedding, it's about the marriage. A former student of mine is a wedding planner and recently told me of how gross it is to see people spend $75,000 on a wedding when they haven't put that effort into ensuring that the marriage will work. But, that's the problem, isn't it? None of us knows if it will work. What is that work anyway? What if the other person gives up? What if you outgrow the other person and can't find a way to stay?
There are a million other questions that go along with this. I have thought about them, of course, when considering marriage for a second time.
But then my friend, Deb, said some magic words to me about wedding planning.
"Pay attention to the months leading up to the wedding. That's the real wedding. The day itself is just a period at the end of a long sentence."
She's so right. He makes me be the best version of myself that I can be. I'm whole without him and have never liked the phrase "you complete me" (because shut up, Jerry Maquire) because what happens if it doesn't work out? Are you a half a person? Perhaps I just don't get that sentimentality.
So, while we're doing a few things in the traditional sense, we're doing other things that are very different. I'd even consider it alternative. Take my bridal party. Not a bridal shower since we own a home together and have worked for the last few years on furnishing it. This one was an idea that came from The Cuban which, yes, is the unorthodox part, but I don't have a maid of honor or bridesmaids. My daughters are standing up with me and my sons and The Cuban's sons are standing up with him. We're going into this a whole new family so we want them to surround us and be a part of that.
At a silent auction he found a party at my favorite boutique shop, Bella's. As much as I love it, it's a little more expensive than I can afford so I usually get a piece of jewelry from him on special occasions or I end up at their sale rack and pick pieces that would be considered signature pieces that stand out. It's my style to get one nice thing like a shirt or dress and then get the rest of it at Target or Macy's during a sale.
The party was for 10 of my friends and it included wine and chocolate (my friend Tammy, who organized it, also brought cheese and crackers and grapes).
Everyone would get 25% off all purchases and then, after the evening was complete, I would get 10% of the sales toward things that I wanted to buy. It was a perfect idea! My girlfriends could shop for themselves and not have to shop for anything for me. We all tried clothes on or grabbed a skirt for someone else and say, "Try that on, it's your style and would look good on you."
Unexpectedly, my friends also got me gift cards so I wouldn't have to wait for the 10% part. The Cuban's sister couldn't make it for the party (I know, middle of the week party but most of my friends are teachers who have the summer off!) (Including my soon to be sister-in-law) even called the store ahead of the party and had a gift card waiting for me. So, I came home with some new outfits that my friends helped me pick out and let me model for them prior to purchasing.
I would never have tried on this dress, which I ended up getting, because it was a size I hadn't recognized in a while. But they convinced me this would be taken on the honeymoon and used for a quiet dinner on the beach.
While I do love the traditional things that go along with wedding planning; the decisions and excitement and crafting things just the way you'd want, this alternative to a bridal shower was just what I needed.
I snagged this particular dress when my friend Piper went over to it and got distracted. While she turned around, I took it off the rack and when I came out with it she recognized it but said it looked so good on me that I should get it.
I obliged her.
It's pretty much exactly the way I would have wanted it. Every unorthodox part of it.