I look at weddings differently these days.
Growing up, I remember my parents saying to my brother and me that we wouldn’t truly appreciate our things until we had to buy them ourselves. Maybe that’s true for weddings, too: The experience is a little different once you’ve planned your own. I’ve been to a seemingly endless reel of weddings over the years, partly due to the fact that my parents have a combined total of 13 siblings, and as a result, I have a sprawling network of aunts and uncles and cousins. For a while, it seemed as if there was a family wedding every few months. And now, Reese and I are at the age where all of our friends are getting married, meaning at least a handful of weddings each year. I’ve always enjoyed weddings. At first it was about the food and dancing and chance to dress up, but in recent years, I began to fully understand and appreciate the meaning behind the party. I always get a little teary-eyed when the crowd stands and the church doors open, and the bride begins her long, smiling walk down the aisle. That, too, has become a little more meaningful lately, as my friends have become those brides. But everything seemed different at a wedding earlier this fall – my first since I became a bride-to-be myself. The hours before the ceremony unfolded as usual: excitement about a new dress, followed by the typical stressing out as I realized I wasn’t going to be ready on time, following by piling sheepishly into the car – still dabbing on makeup – as Reese waited patiently.
Then, as we rolled up to the country club and settled into our seats on one of the prettiest evenings for an outdoor wedding, I began to feel something else: nerves. I wondered what the bride was thinking in these moments before her wedding. What would I be thinking? As the groom walked to the altar, grinning, I felt chills. What would Reese look like, walking into the church for our wedding? Then the bride appeared, arm linked through her father’s, wiping away tears as the music started. I always cry at weddings, but this was worse than usual. This continued as the ceremony wrapped up and the guests filed inside for the cocktail hour. All the details – the lovely, muted colors of the flowers, the tiny candles on the tables, the signature drink and the elaborate appetizers – mattered to me a little more. I made mental notes about the bridesmaid bouquets and the cake table. I snapped pictures of the centerpieces. I tucked the program in my purse.
For the first time, I noticed all the little things that go into a wedding. I felt that familiar wave of panic – could we really pull off something so complicated? And then relief: People do it all the time, with spectacular results.
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Maybe this new perspective I have on weddings is fleeting. Maybe after a few more weddings as a bride-to-be, I’ll have gotten over the larger-than-life emotions and meticulous mental note-taking. Maybe all this thinking will make it a little easier to walk down the aisle in July without becoming a tear-streaked mess. (At least I hope, for everyone’s sake.)
Or maybe it’s simply part of growing up. Maybe, like anything, a wedding means a little more once you’ve gone through the process – and maybe that’s not such a bad thing.