March 7, 2005

Things the Wedding has done to me (post #1)

When E and I got engaged. I didn't really think too much about the wedding. In fact, the night after the proposal, we stayed up talking about the honeymoon and the bar trip and whether we'd be combining them. Travel: that's our focus. We didn't even discuss the wedding: other types of people focus on that, we were too chill to worry about those details.

Only now, about a month or two into planning, I'm learning all sorts of stuff about myself, my family, E, E's family, tradition, society, culture, and history. And it's all coming from planning the wedding. I'm slowly realizing that despite having no ideal wedding, the fact that we're having one means we're falling into step with a rich cultural tradition. Everything we choose that's against cultural norms (synthetic ruby engagement ring, best friend as the internet ordained officiant, etc.) has to be explained in delicate terms so as to assure family, friends and others that we aren't judging society, we aren't judging them, and we do plan to be committed to each other with the same level of sincerity as the "normally" married couples they know. Not only that, but we do want them to attend, be involved, and approve of our commitment to each other. It's much more complicated than I ever imagined. In a wonderful way, it's actually not too stressful, but rather, educational because it tests my commitment to the "alternative" ideas I had about getting married.

On several occasions, I've had sympathy for how much more difficult this process must be for same sex couples. Because, when the push comes to shove, I can just abandon any one of my "alternative" ideas when I realize that it upsets those I love more than it's worth.

Elope? Turns out there would be too many hurt feelings by older family members who would probably never forgive us, so it's definitely not worth it. Destination wedding? Sounds great in practice, but it's really hard to knowingly choose to filter the guest list by ability to afford and take vacation. Wedding party? I didn't want one, but E did, so I compromised. Small wedding? Well, what about this relative and that old friend of your parents? They will be so hurt...

While E & I are very independent thinkers, I find myself crumbling on some of the smaller issues--particularly when I look to E for support in my ideals and I hear, "all the details are irrelevant." It's not worth the fight with my father to exclude his friends that I don't know from the guest list. It's his wedding too, in a weird way. His polite requests for his friends' inclusion have broken down more barriers than I could have imagined. This event is important to him. It's important to my mom. It's important to E's mom and dad. And it's important to our friends.

All of a sudden, I'm feeling a hell of a lot more normal. Getting married IS a big deal. Every invitation sent does matter, both for continuing relations between families and for future friendships.

Perhaps the biggest change of opinion for me concerns registering for gifts. Previously, I saw it as a tacky request for STUFF, and figured that it was even tackier when done by more mature couples like E & me who live together and have a fully stocked kitchen. I've realized that the wedding is more about society celebrating and accepting the union and less about the couple defining their own union (for we have our entire relationship to do that). E doesn't care if we have a registry. In fact, E said, "I don't know, I always thought they were pretty cool. They sure make stuff easier." And, I'm coming around. I'm realizing the list is actually appreciated by people who want to give the bride and groom something they can appreciate and use for the rest of their lives together. I'm seeing the other side. I may not fully appreciate the other side, but I'm starting to understand why it exists and feel that I don't need to stand up in defiance of it.

Most of you don't know me well enough to comprehend how large of a paradigm shift this is for me. But I do. And I'm telling you, it's huge. I'm accepting cultural norms I previously protested for the sake of my family, my friends, and the ease of fitting in and making people comfortable. Oddly enough, it feels good. I feel less selfish. Weird.

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