Wednesday, April 18, 2007

More wedding thoughts

I think that what's hardest about all of this is that I'm not interested in the ceremony at all. Mom's best friend said, "Well, if they don't want to get married in front of people, they must not think it's going to last! Because that's the only reason you don't get married in front of people!" She was, of course, "kidding on the square" (thank you Al Franken, for that most useful of designations) - she knows that Pete and I wouldn't bother if we thought it wouldn't last, and I'm sure that's one reason people elope. The thing is, I just don't know what to do with ceremony and ritual. I either come up feeling empty - which is sad as ritual is supposed to add meaning - or uncomfortable. I don't want to be the center of attention unless I make myself the center of attention. The idea of everyone staring at me as I walk down the aisle between the two halves of everyone we collectively know makes me very uncomfortable and a little anxious. And I'm kind of a private person, when it comes to this stuff. I don't make out in grocery stores; I don't even kiss Pete in front of my mother, with whom we've lived for almost two years! So you can imagine how the idea of describing my innermost feelings for him in front of everyone I know and care about would make me more than a little uncomfortable.

But we can't seem to get out of some kind of a ceremony, no matter how small or short... I don't want to make an entrance. I don't want to solemnly swear or somberly vow anything. I don't believe that a formality makes our relationship any more real, any more, well, devoted. To be sure, the formality does change the relationship: we get new kinship terms for each other and our families; we get the aforementioned health insurance; we get to do our taxes differently; our "couplehood" (or whatever you want to call it) gets recognition for its seriousness without having to explain. But the formality doesn't create the sentiment. In fact, for me, it detracts from it. I have long been annoyed by the assumption that because I'm only 26 I don't know what a "real" relationship is. I've felt the term "boyfriend" was inadequate for about three years now, but fiance just leads to a whole bunch of questions I don't want to answer: ooh, when's the wedding? Do you have a theme? Are you doing it in a church or in front of a judge? What kind of dress do you want to get?

I don't know what the ceremony will be like. What we wanted to do was get a friend to sign all the papers (as the "Officiant") and then have select family members sign as witnesses. And then we'd exchange rings and smile and be happy, and we'd all go out to dinner with the fuller family and toast champagne and say, "hooray, now the state recognizes what we've known for years! We were meant to be!" I like the idea of doing it without really saying anything, that the realness of our love for one another is enough. But Mom said, "You don't think she'll [the "Officiant"] do it without making you say anything, do you?" And frankly, I don't know. But I am getting the very real impression that the way we want to do things will be spoken of with disapproval for the rest of our natural lives. Either as, "you'll never believe what they wanted to do... ridiculous!" or as, "you'll never believe how they did it... ridiculous!" And I have the distinct sensation that behind many of the smiling faces saying, "You have to do what's right for you and not worry about anyone else" (like the dental assistant when I got my teeth cleaned today) is the thought, "they're going to regret it; they'll look back and say, 'we were such foolish kids.'" I don't think I'm projecting; I think I'm extrapolating from similar experiences where there was more to the conversation after that point.

And none of this is to detract from ceremony in general! I have been to several really lovely weddings, weddings where I felt my heart swell with everyone else's as the bride and groom exchanged vows. I've been to several really weird weddings where the officiant went on too long, or inappropriately, or there was a karaoke power ballad, and I still felt moist-eyed at the exchange of rings or first kiss as husband and wife. But that was because the ceremony was meaningful to the people involved. I wasn't moved because someone said, "I do" or lit a candle. And that they wanted to share that moment with us was really wonderful! But that's just not who I am and I wish, I really truly wish that I could get that across to people. I'm not going to regret not having a ceremony, I'm not going to look back and go, "Oh, what a fool I was!" That's why we're having a big party - because that's the part that's meaningful to us. I'm going to look back on the beautiful pictures from that night and think, "What a great time! Everyone I know and love was there and it was just wonderful!" And every time I wear the dress or shoes I got for that party, I'll think of it and I'll feel happy and centered and lucky. And there won't be any uncomfortable or anxious moments.

On a semi-related note, last night my Mom told my Gramma, "Big news: Sydney's getting married!" Gramma said, "Sydney? Really? To whom?"

Please to keep in mind, Pete has seen Gramma pretty much every Christmas, Easter, 4th of July and Thanksgiving for the last five years. And that about five years ago, in one night, she referred to him as both "Steve" and "Rory." My Aunt said, "No Mom, that's Pete, that's Sydney's boyfriend Pete." Gramma said, "Oh, I thought his name was Steve." And that at this most recent Christmas she addressed his card to "Pete J." Gramma says, "What did you say his last name was?" And I said, "Martin." And Gramma says, "Oh! I thought it was Jackson!" Back to the story!

Mom says, "To whom! To Pete!" And Gramma says, "Oh Tina, but Pete's family!" Maybe we should have made out in front of my family...


Eric said...

"We don't need no piece of paper from the City Hall keepin' us tied and true." - My Old Man, from Blue by Joni Mitchell.

Not every ritual you go through in life in necessarily about you. How does Tina feel about skipping out on the ceremony part? Or Pete's sisters? On a slight tanget, I know some Jewish friends who did the whole Bar Mitzvah thing somewhat against their will when they turned 13 (or just for the money), but now appreciate the fact that they went through it. Not saying this will end up the same way - I'm sure there are plenty of people who later regret going through some big ceremony (especially given the divorce rate in America), but that at least a decent ceremony won't kill you and may be something you look back on with some feelings of... what's the opposite of shame? Pride? No, that's too strong. Less shame? Yeah, less shame.

And take it from someone else who's not a big fan of PDA, it can get a little weird being up in front of everyone proclaiming your love. I'm still not sure how I got through it. We have a DVD of our ceremony and reception, and I have watched it exactly once when we first got it. I squirm a little even thinking about what I said. But I heard from many people they enjoyed it. As you say, often the vows & kiss are the parts everyone will remember, so try and make them a little memorable, even if it makes you squemish.

Ceremonies are important, I'm not travelling 3000 miles just for some kegger. I want tears of joy on everyone's faces at the beauty and awe and majesty of your wedding!

Sydney said...

And not every ritual in life has to be about everyone else. We weren't going to do anything but go to the courthouse originally. The party is the compromise. I'm not saying we'd regret the ceremony if we had one; I'm just saying that we won't regret not having one. Here is my vision of the party: people arrive and find their seats, they get a beer or a glass of wine, maybe some dip... Then there's a voice asking everyone to sit down, welcoming them, thanking them for coming, and explaining why we're all here. Then I say some things, then Pete says some things (probably fewer things - he's a succinct kind of guy!), then maybe someone's parent or sibling says some things, and then we open the floor to toasts and ADS (After Dinner Speaking, for the non-debate nerds in the crowd). And everyone is laughing and happy and enjoying their hors d'oeuvres and free beer. And then there's cake! Hooray, cake! So there will be majesty and beauty and awe, and you can provide the tears if you like.

Anonymous said...

Hey el Syd,
This is Kate, and you weren't around when Lance & I got married, but we actually planned a wedding and then sent out notes cancelling it... yes, it's true. There was the freak out (I didn't want to be princess for a day or whatever in the slightest), the church was being unreasonable (they insisted I had to walk down one side or they other and they wouldn't do a center aisle, wtf?), and so we ended up doing an impromptu (for a wedding, we had a week and a half or so to plan) wedding on the same day, different location.

So I'm sure multiple eyebrows were raised at all of that, but no one said anything to me, and kindly didn't even tell us for a couple of years that Lance's grandma almost plunged off the cliff into the waterfall when her wheelchair picked up speed on the trail. And Mum, of course, thoroughly enjoyed the last minute rush :)

At the time it was still surreal but doable, which a big wedding was not for me, and now I really like the photos. So believe me whatever you do will not be "ridiculous" or ridiculed by us, at least.

By the way, what your Grandma said is a classic, just how does she think Pete is related??

Love, Kate.

Anonymous said...

p.s. I forgot to add that you're awesome and we love you and thanks for being there for Pete! Let us know if we can help in any way. Love, K.

Sydney said...

I'm not sure how gramma thinks he's related, but I am sure I know what she'd say if I asked: "Well I don't know!" And then she'd shrug her arms along with her shoulders and let them flop back into her lap with her wrists cross and she'd look away for a moment. And then if she thought it was funny, she'd do little mini-flops, purse her lips raise her eyebrows as if to say, "So sue me!"