Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Lessons from a Bride

So you’ve found someone you want to marry. Maybe you’re engaged, or maybe you’re not even talking about it but you’re smiling at each other and thinking about it. I got married six months ago, and I couldn’t be happier. I highly recommend marriage, generally. But there are some things you should know about getting married.

Now, I don’t expect you to believe most, or even any, of this right now, because you’re in love and you two are special and you’re going to do things differently; the right way. Listen: that’s what everyone thinks. Few people accomplish that. Fewer than you’d think, probably, because not many people are going to admit they planned on doing it differently, the right way, but didn’t succeed.

But that’s why you have me! I was going to have a no stress, totally laid back wedding. I was going to be the Ideal Bride-to-Be with no hang-ups on meaningless drivel. We were going to have a simple, inexpensive wedding that people would remember forever as a great time.

I think we succeeded in the last part - I’m told our wedding was a blast. I had a pretty good time myself, which I see as a success. But it turned out to be way more stressful getting to that day than I anticipated. And I’m going to tell you why I think that was. You won’t believe me, probably, or won’t take any of this to heart and that’s ok. I’m documenting my experience. Come back and tell me about yours so we can figure out exactly how to go about this getting married thing the Right Way.

1) the debt you think will be manageable isn’t really worth it.

We told ourselves, we’re saving money, we just need the cash now so put it on the card and we’ll pay it off later. We said, we just have to get through the next few months and then we’ll pay the whole thing off in full. We assured ourselves we have a strong financial situation overall, a little credit card debt isn’t going to kill us.

And that last part, I still think/tell myself, is true. But really, I wish we hadn’t racked up all that debt. I don’t wish that we hadn’t treated ourselves to nights out as often as we did, because we needed those for psychological well being. Instead, I wish that when it came down to making choices about our wedding, we’d drawn a firmer line across what we could and could not afford.

We even did a good job – our wedding cost about half what the average American wedding costs, and plenty of it was paid in cash. But the fact is we spent so much of our cash on the wedding, we needed credit to afford the fun stuff we needed to do to relax.

2) Some fights aren’t yours to fight.

This one could really be one of the things I’ve learned so far from being married. But its both. The fact is, nothing, not even your wedding, is all about you. It’s all about lots of complicated people and things and, when it has nothing to do with you, you need to recognize that and leave it alone.

There is a difference, however, between leaving something alone and ignoring it. By all means, address it. But in limited terms. Offer your support and understanding, for example, but don’t hoist your own battle flag.

3) You always feel better in the long run when you keep your cool than when you flip your shit.

In the same vein, keep this in mind when planning your wedding: you and everyone you love are about to immerse themselves in this venture, but the stress of doing so has nothing to do with picking colors or food or dresses, like you’d think it would. Everyone who plays a part in a wedding comes to the table with baggage that has nothing to do with you or your husband to be. The day isn’t just about the two of you, it’s about all the baggage your two groups of friends and families have about you, and the institution of marriage, and their own lives.

You goal, really, is to find a way to get all that baggage sorted and put away as neatly as possible so you can get through the motions that say you’re married. Because remember, if it has nothing to do with you, it’s not your fight to fight. You’re just trying to throw a fun party. Hanging up on people, yelling, and giving your friends and family the cold shoulder sound satisfying, but they won’t help you reach your ultimate goal.

Besides, after all of this you go on your honeymoon, where it really is all about the two of you. That vacation has more to do with what marriage really means than any other part of the whole process.

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