Getting Married and the "Rebellious" Wedding
Mood: Speaking my truth. Read on for more details.
I'm getting married in a month, and although I'm really excited about it, this has also been the most stressful event I have ever planned. It's challenged me by forcing me to blast open the doors of honesty and become comfortable with uncomfortable conversations. I’m writing this because I’ve spoken with many other “bride-to-be” or “groom-to-be” people, and we all appear to be coming up against the same tough questions. Writing this is a way for me to process what is going to work for me, but hopefully others can take at least a grain of help from it.
My wedding is what some people would call “non-traditional,” others would call “rebellious,” and even others would call “progressive.” My fiancé and I are getting brunch with our best friend, who’s going to officiate our wedding, and then the 3 of us are going to Six Flags.
Cue: All the questions.
“Are you going to wear white?”
“Did you invite your family?”
“Are you going to get a photographer?”
“Why aren’t you inviting your family?”
Here’s the first thing. People should be able to get married however they want to get married. This statement means it does not matter what other people think or expect when it comes to your wedding. If you are making a choice about your wedding to appease the expectations of others, but you don’t actually like or want the things that will happen, then... Houston, we have a problem.
Your wedding is an incredible day in your life (many would say “the greatest day”). But how is it going to be so special if you’re doing it on other people’s terms? I think the secret that no one wants to talk about is: you don’t have to. You can choose to do only what makes you happy. I understand that what I’m proposing means creating a lot of boundaries, ones that will potentially cause you to lose relationships. But let me ask this: If the guest you are inviting isn’t happy with the way you’re doing the wedding, are they really someone you want to celebrate with? Weddings are hard because they open up this can of worms, but, at the same time, they are a real opportunity to decide: Who is your chosen family? Who do you want around you for support following this epic event? Whose opinion matters?
Here’s the second thing. Culture. Yes, the ultimate spanner in the gears. Why? Because everything I have stated above comes from a privileged, white, hetero, cisgender perspective. But, if you, like me, are facing a family that perceives weddings from a different cultural mindset, this makes things more difficult.
Your first thought may be similar to mine: “My wedding plan isn’t about YOU!”
You’re right. It isn’t about them. But...
Your family doesn’t understand that. And probably doesn’t have the ability to understand your cultural perspective, and, if they’re really set in their ways, they most likely don’t have any interest in understanding. So, you kind of have two options: Help them understand or risk losing the relationship.
I don’t think moving on from the relationship would have been the best choice for me. I have cut ties with family members in the past due to some traumatic incidents. That was healthy for me, but this seemed different. My family more than likely had no idea why I was planning a tiny, private wedding. And because they had no context, what else could they think but, “Welp, I guess Danielle just hates us then.” Which is NOT true. And I think leaving their imaginations to convince them of even worse stories than the reality of the situation would have been unfair.
So this is what I did. I talked to them. I acknowledged their hurt feelings. I figured out what my family actually wanted. They wanted to be included in some way.
I could do that, right? Doesn’t mean grandma and grandpa are about to get lit at Six Flags, but there are other ways to include them. For me, the right thing to do was to visit them for a day, and spend time doing things we love together. Eating. Going to the zoo. Eating. And maybe you come from a family that has an even more intense cultural expectation of you for your wedding. It’s up to you to decide what you are and are not willing to compromise for your relationships. This is what worked for me. I got lucky. My family was willing to compromise. Yours might not, and that doesn’t mean you’ve done anything wrong. At least now, you have done what you can to stay true to yourself while recognizing other people’s feelings. And if others want to cut you off as a result of that... well, that’s just more information.
Last, but not least, I think we need to shine a light on the really sexist undertones of preparing for a wedding. Women get asked way more questions than men. It is stunning how many people think they are entitled to an opinion when it comes to conversations with the bride-to-be. Here are some personal examples.
First, since I started talking about my engagement, I have seen endless ads on Facebook and Instagram for “wedding rings,” “wedding dresses,” “bridal planning,” and more. Subliminal messaging is one of the millions of ways society tries to get us to conform to it’s expectations.
Second, I’m wearing the ring. He’s not. I have my own personal blabbermouth on my finger, just dying to tell everyone that I’m taken, and planning a really stressful event. He doesn’t. When people see that I have a ring, they want a closer look, literally and figuratively. They want in on the action. It is so nice that others are excited about this, but it often gets translated through questions that are tiring and stressful. “Can I see your ring?” “Have you booked the venue?” “What are you going to wear?”
Think about it from the male perspective. They’re not wearing an engagement ring, so first thing’s first. If they are going to be asked about the wedding, they would have to share the information that they are getting married. But even then, how often do we hear men getting asked, “Have you gotten your wedding ring?” “Have you booked the venue?” “What are you going to wear?” It just doesn’t happen that often.
You should get married however you want to get married.
If you are the fiancé or fiancée, this is an opportunity to decide what your expectations and boundaries are as a couple. This time is for you, and it’s important to be clear, kind, and consistent about those expectations with everyone who will want to have an opinion on your wedding.
If you are the person who loves weddings, and find yourself giving opinions or asking questions, be mindful of how you’re framing your love. “I’m so excited for you and interested to hear how YOU are planning YOUR wedding” is a million times more supportive than “Did you pick a venue yet?”
Cultural context is important.
If you are the fiancé or fiancée, your family might have some cultural values that differ from your own. This is an opportunity for compromise. Remember, though, compromise means REALLY thinking about what you can and can’t do. Don’t aim to please unless it’s also going to please yourself! The other person will do this as well, and if you can hear each other out, you can hopefully come to an agreement that works for both of you! (And if you can’t, at least you’ve tried to give this other person some recognition of their value in your life.)
If you are the family member who has a different cultural perspective from your person getting married, then keep an open mind. In your culture, your wedding might have been about honoring the family in some way. In your person’s culture, it might not be that way. If you feel like your person getting married won’t listen to you, try communicating with different words. Are you using passive aggressive statements? If you are, an alternative is to use “I feel” statements. For example, “I feel hurt that I am not invited to your wedding.” Remember, the person getting married has a role in speaking their truth, but you also have responsibility in speaking your truth. Lastly, both parties have to agree to be kind about it or nothing’s going to get addressed.
Society places a lot more pressure on women than men as they prepare to get married.
Ladies, you have options! Lots of fun, progressive alternatives to traditional weddings are out there. For example, having both people who are engaged get engagement rings! Another option is choosing when and who to engage with about your engagement. If someone really close to you is firing off a lot of stressful questions, validate their excitement. And then: talk to them about how it makes you feel and set up some expectations of how you would like them to talk to you. Even more importantly, I would recommend not putting in this kind of effort with people you don’t have a relationship with. You are a strong, smart, busy woman. So let it roll off because, frankly, you have better things to do with your time. (Unless you don’t! Then feel free to take down the patriarchy, queen!)
Men, you are our allies and advocates, and that means you have a role in this! Saying nothing is not an option. Letting it be = letting the crushing sexism continue, and your partner will without a doubt be affected by it. If she’s cool with that, ask her to read this article, and if she’s still cool with it, well then, okay. But I’m not cool with it! And most of us women are (as Beyoncé would say) “sick of the bullshit.” Help us! Interrupt the endless questions by voicing your own opinion about the wedding, reshaping wedding planning as a team effort, or redirecting the conversation.
In the end, weddings are a dicey and tough subject for both the people getting married, as well as everyone else involved. But if we don’t acknowledge these realities as powerful and complicated, then it will continue to cause rifts in our relationships and damage to our happiness. We have to start talking to each other instead of blocking it out or arguing. We have to own our worth and value by having clear, vulnerable conversations (which, by the way, will show that you recognize the other person’s worth and value). It seems so simple a concept, but it is probably one of the hardest things that we ask each other to do. The longer that we keep the pressure of weddings under wraps, the harder it will be to discuss it. We have to break the ice, and put our best, most truthful selves forward. Yes, it’s going to be a challenge. There won’t be any easy answers. But if you want to maintain a strong sense of self-worth during your wedding, and want to show that you care for your loved ones, then it’s the kind of work that’s worth pursuing.
Danielle Pinals is a Singer, Songwriter, and Playwright: www.daniellepinals.com