This week, I have five unsolicited
and unconventional wedding tips.
They came to mind to share, so I am including them
as part of this series on Change.
Perhaps they are a change
from the routine and typical "wedding advice"
or perhaps they came to mind because, as a result,
I have changed.
Regardless, these are lessons and insights I learned
during my engagement season and afterward,
and for which, I am thankful.
My husband and I have been married
(almost) five years.
In other words, no ifs, onlys, or buts accompany any "gift" later on. Otherwise, proceed wisely.
My husband and I were offered a kind gift of a photographer for our wedding. But when we shared the two or three we were considering a few days later, this couple slowly recoiled on hearing the news. It had not included their idea of who the photographer should be: the one they usually go to. As such, they would only offer to pay if we went with their photographer. I felt angry upon hearing the new news. However, I did not see another choice (such as politely declining--it did not even cross my mind). Speaking for myself here, I continued to go ahead and receive this "gift" that felt more like an offer with terms. But one redemptive benefit: upon reflection, I was able to see how clearly I was involved in this process and that the only person I could be angry at was myself. This photographer was our wedding photographer only because I chose to go along with it. I was the person who ignored my desire to have another photographer, all at the risk of ruffling feathers.
(As it turned out, this photographer was challenging to work with which is the last thing anyone needs on their wedding day. Even if the services were technically “free," I certainly paid in other ways like having beautiful pictures but with associations of tension and friction, and ultimately, negating my voice.)
Courage to stay true may arise in two forms: to see there are always choices and to voice those choices (again and again if need be).
In the case of the photographer, I was not in tune with myself enough to feel the disorientation or manipulation that I encountered later on in the communication; I was not in touch with feelings of aloneness and being unheard, nor then, in knowing how to proceed from there. I had voiced my desires to my fiancé, but I felt ignored and did not see that I needed to continue to remain true to myself and say things over and over again until I felt respected and heard. Only then could we begin an honest conversation about the matter. (Which at that point would have less to do about the photographer and more to do about our relational dynamic.) But alas, I was a bit novice early on in the planning but soon learned to speak up repeatedly (as seen with the photographer) or change course entirely.
(Gratefully, when this issue did arise later on, my husband and I were each able to take responsibility for our ways and talk honestly about the seemingly small matter because, as any therapist or wise friend knows, these things are actually huge.)
The guest list can be tricky (especially if one likes to be accepted). Will someone be upset if they're left off? What criteria is used to discern the audience for such a sacred, special, and celebratory event? Are all 5,000 "friends" welcomed?? This person was nice to me, are they invited? Members of family desire x, y, z, are those desires met?
Instead of these kinds of questions, reframe it: who are the people I desire around me when marriage gets hard? This is not just a commitment between the married couple and the god of their understanding (if they choose to include it), but between the community invited and the two professing their love to one another. This community actually has an active pledge to the couple, though, every wedding I have been to (except the one in Hawai'i) seems to facilitate this part of the ceremony out of ritual or routine. And while yes, it is great to invite those that have been a part of the journey before the engagement, we all know the guest list may get inflated. This is where reframing the criteria may prove most helpful. (And hopefully, all grown-ups can be adults about whether or not they're invited, or their friends are.)
I am grateful that when I reached out to my mother during a hard spell, she simply shared, "That's what I signed up for at your wedding!" This was not simply because I was her daughter--but specifically because of the ceremonial commitment. I was thankful to experience her perspective since it is one I share too.
Create space, not necessarily from each other, but from the hoopla of the planning process (or from other parts of life too). This is such a precious and holy day, take time to reflect about what it is exactly that you are promising to one another. This is your life journey together--and your particular part of it, regardless of circumstance.
While I may be known as "quite intentional" to some people, this season was so incredibly busy for me that I wrote my vows just hours before the ceremony. They were from my heart and I loved them, however, I felt rushed (though I had ruminated on them in days prior). I would have appreciated creating quiet space for myself weeks ahead of time to actively reflect and think about what it was exactly that I was promising and committing myself to. Tone of voice? Actions? Through thick and thin? Of course, all the above but carving out space to actively engage with my vow honors myself, honors my then soon-to-be husband, and honors our covenant that we're forging together in God's grace and presence. After all, that is why there is a celebration in the first place: to mark this special and sacred exchange.
Couch the vow in Jesus, even if you have never known him before or have learned about him from others that cause you to think twice; go to him (not those others) to know more about him and his great, great Love. I promise, his active agency will help you every time you sincerely desire it. He is always faithful. (But be careful, what you ask for; it is often answered in unexpected, adventurous ways.)
I cannot reiterate how true his active presence has been in my life and in our life together. Truly life-giving, truly life-seeing, and truly life-subverting. He is Love and it made sense to both of us to couch our vow in his great Love as a safety net for ours. (And if you're reading this after the fact, I believe it is never too late to still ask for help, regardless of circumstance.) x