As a young and only child, I played board games with stuffed animals and a lunch box. I had American Girl dolls, but I didn’t have the imagination to play with them. I constructed houses for beanie babies out of my parents’ recyclables. In second grade, I was ridiculed for wearing pink and then later called a tomboy. In third grade, I got a haircut so short that a stranger once directed me to the boys’ bathroom. I cried for a long time. In fourth grade, I wore mismatched, brightly-colored socks every day. I can’t remember why. My Halloween costumes were homemade, by my mom; some memorable ones were “The Queen of Everything” (from the Mary Engelbreit poster), and ketchup, when a blond-haired friend accompanied me as mustard. Throughout my childhood, I wore clothes several sizes too big, a direct result of the projection of one of my mother’s fears—wearing clothes that cling to or even touch one’s body—onto me. I don’t quite understand it, even now, but mom, I forgive you. You were being yourself, and I now know that that is quite cool.
Now that I buy my own clothes, I don’t wear them as loosely as my mom wears hers. But I’m still not a fan of tight. Or fancy. Or trendy—well, maybe a slight fan of trendy, but it’s rare when I catch on to a trend before it’s over. I can’t go full-on trend; for example, now that loose shirts are in style ( I don’t know why, but at least they are comfortable), I bought one or two, but they are, on the scale of loose to tight, in which loose equals trendy, just about all the way on the tight side. I feel as though I’ll never get it quite right. I have a difficult time finding jeans to fit; I don’t dare try on jeans that are “skinny” because I know I won’t be able to put them on.
This garb debacle, though superficial, represents the mental dilemma I encounter most of the day, every day. I spend most of my time in a nebulous muddle of indecision, wondering how to follow my heart or gut or [choose your medical metaphor] while maintaining some rudimentary awareness of what other people are doing, watching, saying, and wearing. Sometimes I want to do what those people are doing; other times I wish I wanted to do what they wanted to do. Take college, for example. Even though I had long scorned the Greek system, I participated in the awful process that is sorority rush, hoping to meet new people and figure out what the hype was all about. I ended up in the “fat” sorority. Yet like almost all sororities, consumption of alcohol was paramount to membership. At that point in my life, I felt compelled to follow the law; that is, I would not drink. It turns out that not drinking makes making friends infinitely more difficult. I decided I would try to stick it out. I dressed up and went to a few parties, but they were not that fun, mostly because everyone around me was drunk and I was not. I was coerced into living in the sorority house for the next academic year. Around mid-October, I realized that I didn’t want to be part of the sorority anymore. I dropped out, but I still had to live in the house for the rest of the semester. Yes, if you are wondering, that is uncomfortable.
So my utter lack of knowing how to balance “who I am” (whatever that is) with fun and trendy apparel, drinks, gadgets, bands, movies, and so on—I am the person who, when you say the name of something, doesn’t know if it is a band, a song, a TV show, or a movie—carries over into wedding planning. Because I am predisposed to anxiety, this dilemma is made even worse. (Then I feel guilty for feeling uncertain because, after all, I am so lucky to have found deep love and to have the opportunity to marry in front of family and friends.) I’m not sure which I spend more time on—thinking about how to balance my preferences and convictions with whatever is cool, proper, and expected; or, thinking about how I am thinking about the aforementioned dilemma far too much. Regardless, this makes planning a wedding somewhat difficult.
Thanks to all the practical people out there and the principal of practicality and sanity, a philosophical stance that I believe has rescued me from having the wedding that everyone else wanted, I think that I am approaching wedding planning with a greater degree of sanity than would otherwise be possible. This is lovely, except for the fact that only a few people, including, thankfully, my dear fiancé, who has only mild trepidation for eschewing tradition, understands the concept of a sane and practical wedding.
Jacob and I are going to get married on a stage, in a theater, in December. We are so excited. We often go to plays there, it is close to our apartment (OK, actually structurally attached), and we believe in their mission statement: defy convention. Our reception will be in the lobby area. We are having a band, a bridal party, and food, but we’re doing some things of which Emily Post would not approve. I’m not going to have a maid of honor, and he’s not going to have a best man. Those designations require choices that are too tough to make. We are not having a religious ceremony, though we are incorporating some aspects of Judaism, such as the breaking of the glass and the part when the guests raise the bride and groom up high on chairs. I can’t remember what these are called, as it’s Jacob who grew up Jewish, not me. A federal judge is going to officiate. Our invitations are not going to have inner and outer envelopes. One envelope seems satisfactory. We are going to address the invitations as we think the people who are receiving them would prefer. We are also going to have “groomsfolk” (if you have a better name, please tell me); Jacob has female friends that he wants included, and I think that’s awesome. Our flower girl is in her upper twenties. But she’s really sweet and cute! Most importantly, perhaps, we are having the wedding where we live, here in Washington, DC—not in Georgia, where I am from, and not in Pennsylvania, where Jacob grew up.
Given that we’ve made all those decisions, one of the next steps is to find a dress. I used to mock the melodramatic brides on TLC’s Say Yes to the Dress. Now I actually feel sorry for them, in a mostly genuine way. The idea that the bride—an emotionally-fraught and highly profitable social construction—will just simply KNOW when a dress is THE right dress is nonsensical. Furthermore, this show sends the message that not only will brides have one teary-eyed moment followed by a hug with an “entourage,” but also that they should and will have that moment; to not have that moment is tantamount to being a “bad” bride.
I didn’t have that moment. Of course not, because this is not the way things happen to me. I went with my mom to David’s Bridal to get a sense of what wedding gowns look like when normal people wear them. By “normal people,” I mean people who are actually getting married, not the bone-thin models portrayed in dramatic lighting in wedding magazines. The sales person instructed me to adorn a spandex corset, fresh with the marks of a rosy pink lipstick. I tried on several dresses. Some looked OK, and some looked terrible. I consider myself to be of normal size and proportions, but these dresses made me look busty and wide-hipped; when I looked at the photos, I thought that I needed to lose ten pounds. This thought was not alleviated by the sales person, who told me that I would probably be OK if I did not lose weight before the wedding.
The next day, I went to a consignment store. The dresses were beautiful, and it turned out that because I am THE sample size, some of the dresses fit me well. For the first time, I thought I looked pretty. I couldn’t believe that I looked good in a dress. I narrowed my initial choices down to two. I liked one, mostly because it was the first one to fit and to show that I had a decent figure. My mom liked the other one, her smile and gaping mouth the result of the ethereal, dreamy fabric of which I cannot recall the name. It was beautiful, truly.
Wedding planning became much less fun with a visit to a florist. She scolded me for not already having a dress, a color scheme, the layout of the space with tables, the size of the tables, the rules and regulations of the theater, and the type of linens. I thought I was going to cry. I am new at this. I am the girl who just this year managed to plan her own birthday party. It ended up being an awkward picnic. I am not a party planner. I usually don’t even like going to other people’s parties that much. At sleepover parties, I was always the first to conk out. On occasion, I am even the party pooper. I am an introvert, and too much external stimulation makes me nervous. I know that I am going to say many of the potential wrong things to say. I often do. This florist—the “bitch from hell,” according to my mom, who curses not more than once a year—told me that I was silly for coming to a flower shop without having all of these things figured out. How could it even occur to me to think of flowers, when it’s impossible to do so without having a wedding dress, which she said will take six to eight months? My wedding is in eight months. Oh my. Eight months. I’d gone into the shop with an appointment, thinking that I’d like to get a sense of what flowers are available in the winter. Instead, I ended up thinking that I was stupid for not thinking of all of these things. The florist assumed that all members of the bridal party and many family members would need their own bouquets—If I weren’t getting married in the winter, I’d walk down the aisle with a giant sunflower from my mom’s garden.
I then went to J. Crew, where I think I may have found a dress. I tried it on, no corset, no veil, no beading or bling, and it looked good. I liked it with a sash. I tried on a few others but came back to this one. It felt more like me than any of the previous dresses. My mom and my future mom-in-law thought it looked nice and highlighted my figure. I came to the understanding that this dress felt good, except for the fact that it was too big. I worried that it might be too casual or insufficiently theatrical. I don’t know what color sash to pick.
So I said “probably” to the dress, provided that a smaller size fits. Maybe then I’ll be able to tell if it is THE dress. To get the right size, we had to order the dress; when it comes in next week and I try it on, I can return it for a full refund if it doesn’t fit, hence the “probably” rather than the “YES!” If it does fit, it’ll just be me in a dressing room, realizing that this dress encapsulates my personality. If it doesn’t match the linens, and if the linens don’t match the flowers, so be it. I probably wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.