When I got engaged, I was determined ‘not to be one of those silly bridezillas who lose their s*** over table-settings and colour schemes.’ Certain I was above such signs of the patriarchy as bridal anxiety, I channeled Mean Girls’ Amy Poehler ‘I’m not like a regular bride – I’m a cool bride!’
So it was a nasty shock when two Saturdays before the wedding, I found myself because I was mid-panic attack and literally unable to crawl to a paper bag.
Culturally, our models of brideliness are limited to the grotesque bridezillas and the ‘lives for haberdashery’ DIY bride. No one warned me that planning a wedding is the emotional equivalent of being dragged through a Tough Mudder obstacle course by a team of Scientologists.
Surviving the Tough Mudder Wedding Experience is all about knowing what to expect. The following advice won’t get you to your destination ten kilos lighter – but it will get you there sane and in love.
- Anything unresolved will resurface. So accept your s***, and accept it early
A wedding is like a milestone birthday. You suddenly see every aspect of your life as it actually is, not as you were aiming it to be. Although this can be a great, constructive thing (‘Coming out of denial about my relationship with my sibling, yay!’ ‘My partner earns way more/less than I do and wants a pre-nup! Good to know!’), it’s also confronting. It’s particularly confronting when all anyone can say to you in the lead-up is how happy you must be.
Seek out those rare friend-beasts who can let you ‘be where you are’, without rushing you back to ‘Elation! Happy! Bridal!’ I have a special place in my heart for the friend who took my hyperventilating phone call during her colonic irrigation … and for the one who met my cries of ‘But my life! My life!’ with tickets to a strip show and a large bar tab.
If nothing else, vanity-wise, it pays to go inward. Spending all your time tanning, waxing and mani-pedi-ing your outer self is a false economy. For serenely beautiful wedding photos, you must first accept the hot mess that is you.
- Accept that being a bride is a job that you will never get right. So quit trying.
Soon after engagement, you’ll wake up one morning a Bride Thing. Normally sane friends and family call and email several times a day to discuss anything from fingernails to chair hire. At first, this feels nice – people are paying you attention and asking your opinion!
On the other, because wedding culture is all about the bride (solving bridal anxiety with products and services promising the myth of perfection), you’ll suddenly feel like the unwitting CEO of a company called Your Wedding, with you alone carrying the collective expectations of all involved. And other people’s wedding expectations are made to be disappointed.
“I couldn’t be bothered doing most of the usual wedding crap, but I wasn’t prepared for how much that would disappoint other people,” said my buddy Rachel, post-wedding. “Even shop assistants would say things like ‘But don’t you want it to be special?’. I interpreted this as ‘your wedding won’t be meaningful.’” Perhaps there is an implicit fear that if you’re not that into the fantasy, you can’t really be in love?
Remind yourself that your wedding will be special because you’re in it. It’s not special because it looks like some god-awful carriage-and-roses date from The Bachelor.
- Your wedding is not about you – it’s a stage for other people to act out their crazy
“You have to understand that for other people your wedding is not about you,” warned my hairdresser. “It’s about them. And believe me, honey, it alllll comes out at weddings!”
The sooner you can accept that your wedding is an opportunity for other people to act out their crazy, the sooner you’ll be able to return to your happy place and let them do their crazy dance as a solo.
For one person, your wedding will be about seeing their ex-husband with his new wife. For someone else it’s about how they’ve put on 20 kilos since they last saw you; someone will leave early in tears, and mortal enemies will hug it out in the toilets. Either way, you have no control, and who says your wedding can’t be a grand arena for others to play out the drama of their lives? Your wedding is the modern version of the waterhole. If you can step back and allow room for a little imperfection and human fragility – amazingly enough, you make space for other people to connect.
- Have your ‘difficult first year of marriage’ before you get married
You and your partner will argue 60-80% more in the lead-up to a wedding. This is where it pays to have a long courtship. If you can road test the relationship with by going through some serious emotional sh** before you start planning a wedding, the odds of making it to the ceremony still excited by the sight of them are much higher. Somehow it also means you won’t feel the need to ‘perform’ love and romance for the wedding, because you’ll actually feel it. Which is better.
- Base all decisions on who you are (not who you want to be)
Strike these from your wedding vocabulary: original, timeless, tasteful, and unique. You and your partner are already unique creatures with unique habits and unique DNA – you don’t need to prove this with any of the following: unity candles, sand, doves, rustic theme, vintage theme, nerd theme or ‘we’re different to everyone else’ theme. (Unless you’re already into these things, in which case knock yourselves out.)
The most unique, special parts of the wedding will be the things you haven’t planned – see ‘mortal enemies hugging it out’.
- Invite those you actually like, not those you want to like you
With reality TV turning weddings into a competitive sport, you’d be forgiven for thinking that modern nuptials are as much about connection as they are about artichokes. I have a friend who regularly attends the kinds of celebrity weddings that get plastered across OK! magazine. “Most of the guests are either hustling for work, or putting bets on how long the marriage will last,” she says.
Take another look at your guest list. Is that bogan colleague who cracks you up every single day on there? Are the dorks from your sewing circle who’ve heard every detail? Your wedding is no place for friend-shame: if you need to give your old rehab buddy Amber-Jayde a cover story to get her there, then for god’s sake do it.
- Post wedding Relevance Deprivation Syndrome
Just as it takes time to get used to being a Bride Thing, it also takes time to get used to no one giving a crap about your lip colour. The only cure is to celebrate someone else’s special occasion as soon as possible. It sounds counter-intuitive, but it works.