It isn’t all sunshine and unicorns: Reconciling my wedding expectations with my likely wedding realities

Guest post by Boxer the Attention Whore
A portion of Offbeat Bride Tribe member kzimmerwoman's invitation.
A portion of Offbeat Bride Tribe member kzimmerwoman's invitation.

I'm trying to be realistic about both my wedding expectations and my wedding suspicions, based on past events and attitudes. And then I'm trying to let it go. So with that in mind, here is a what I'm expecting from our wedding versus what will more than likely happen…

What I want from our wedding:

  • I want the people we love/who love us to come and celebrate that love in all its fucked-up forms (we are a truly motley crew made up of friends who are sometimes also exes, cross-dressers, extremely shy lesbians, staunch Mormons, conservative republicans, libertarians, political activists, coworkers, clients, friends, and family).
  • I want things to look beautiful and make for beautiful photographs.
  • I want to feel beautiful and confident.
  • I want to marry Brandon, knowing full well that it isn't all sunshine and unicorns.
  • I want our friends and family to stow the drama and play nicely with each other.
  • I want to laugh and dance and cry happy tears (without ruining my makeup).
  • I want to eat and enjoy myself and have others eat and enjoy themselves.
  • I want to privately hold the little rituals that keep me grounded and sane (burning rosemary and lavender bundles, lighting a candle for friends and family who could not be with us, talking to my grandmother even though she's been dead for the last nineteen years).
  • I want to dance.

What I suspect will happen:

  • The morning will be stressful and hectic and something will not get done the way I think it should. This will frustrate me.
  • My hair will be uncooperative and I will have to do something other than what I planned with it.
  • I will have to apply my makeup at least twice to get it right. One eye will look better than the other.
  • We will forget to take something to the venue.
  • Not as many people as I would like will eat or dance, and at least a dozen will dip out WAY early, and I will miss them.
  • Something we are doing will offend or upset someone.
  • I will have some sort of body image issue that will piss me off and make me cry. Maybe my teeth won't be white enough, maybe I'll decide I'm fat that day, maybe my eyes will be puffy.
  • I will have to break up at least one sibling fight between The Girls.
  • Everything will run fifteen-minutes-to-an-hour, behind schedule
  • Junior will drink too much and I'll have to have someone “handle” him.

Honestly in ten years it will not matter that no one danced, or that Tuffy got offended by our ceremony, or that we had a fuckton of leftovers. It will not matter that I made all the decorations and food, or that I had the seamstress sew awesome Neo-Victorian things to the train of my dress. No one will care that we ran out of beer and that the weather was a trifle too hot or too cold. But it will matter that B and I married each other and that we have happy memories of the day.

So my goal (aside from doing everything in the to do list to utter perfection… riiight) is to make happy memories of the day. And to be present enough to make them stick.

Of course I'll still hope for the best photos ever, impromptu dance offs, and heartfelt toasts. But in ten days it will all be memory. In ten weeks it will all be “stories” to share. In ten months it will be “WOW! We've been married almost a year. So much has happened.” In ten years it will be photos I look back on and smile, and memories I hold dear (possibly while sharing my wisdom with The Girls as they plan/dream about their own weddings). And in ten decades… in ten decades it will only matter that we lived and that we loved.

The rest will be lost to time and tall tales. And I'm okay with that.

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Comments on It isn’t all sunshine and unicorns: Reconciling my wedding expectations with my likely wedding realities

  1. Thank you thank you thank you so much for this. This particular post is well timed because as I type, I am taking a five second break from the whirlwind of house and yard work that preceded our families arriving for our wedding Saturday. I was on the verge of a manic freak out with the forecast calling for rain (so much for backyard reception!) and every craft and project that didn’t and isn’t going to get done. Then I read this and reached a moment of clarity: “And in ten decades… in ten decades it will only matter that we lived and that we loved.” Thank you.

    • This is going to be me in about 45 days. I can already feel it happening. It’s so nice to know we’re not alone, isn’t it?

      Boxer, thank you for the reality check. I’m taking deep breaths and letting more stuff go right now.

  2. “So my goal (aside from doing everything in the to do list to utter perfection… riiight) is to make happy memories of the day. And to be present enough to make them stick.” This is soooo important, and I recommend that you reminisce out loud with you husband and others who were at the wedding as often as possible to lock the memories into your brain. We need to reinforce those neural pathways so we don’t lose bits and pieces of that precious day.

  3. I kind of needed this. My wedding involves my side of 10 if we’re lucky vs. his side of 80 with his side being mostly practicing Mormons and my side being a crew of hippies, San Franciscans, art teachers, and ravers. I accept the lack of balance, but I fear the outcomes of my family getting totally lost and swallowed by khaki-clad masses or else my little crew offending and angering everyone in sight. But I guess that fear is just part of having any offbeat wedding. Somebody’s grandma will disapprove no matter what, so savvy with it and forge on.

  4. Thank you thank you! I definately added this to my bookmarks for later- I need reminding to keep my head when things get crazy!

  5. Exactly! And what you can’t laugh about later and turn into a really good story you’ll completely forget about. There will also be unexpected wonderful surprises that all your careful planning never scheduled in. Having expectations gives us something to plan towards but the day will take on a life of it’s own so plan and obsess all you want up until the day, then let it go and let it happen however it does.

  6. Loved this, especially: “I will have to apply my makeup at least twice to get it right. One eye will look better than the other” because isn’t that always the way?! Best of luck that your day will succeed your expectations in all the good ways!

  7. Perfect article. I needed to hear it. I needed to hear it so much that it made me tear up a little bit. Especially the part about “…it will only matter that we lived and that we loved.”

  8. This is a great attitude. Things will go wrong. Chances are they won’t even be the things you planned on. But you’re right, it won’t really matter. The only thing that HAS to happen is you have to marry the person you love. That’s all. 🙂

    One tip, though–when it comes to how you want people to act at the reception (dancing, eating, etc.) just be sure you and your partner set the standard. If they see you guys dancing, they’ll dance. If they see you eating, they’ll eat.

    At our wedding, we had a special dance right after the first dance and parent dances where I got my entire wedding party out on the floor. It set the mood and the dancing didn’t stop, literally, until the DJ packed up and went home.

    But that’s really all you can do and if people don’t cooperate, it doesn’t matter. As long as you enjoy yourself, the memories you’ll keep will be the faces of your loved ones, not how many of them danced to Thriller. 🙂

  9. I actually felt a few heartstrings jerk and that cry-ey feeling start… thank you. I’m worried about my own people that will bitch and moan, and though I’d like them to let things go and enjoy themselves, their expectations and experience of the day will be out of my hands. Perspective! Huzah! Dave and I will be married, and let them eat cake!

  10. So we’re on our honeymoon, recovering after hosting our rustic campout wedding weekend. And what you say couldn’t be more true!

    It was cold during dinner & it rained during the outdoor reception & there was drama & we forgot or messed up more than a handful of things…and ya know what? Our friends & family told us endlessly that it was the best wedding ever.

    I know that to be true because I see it in the first photos that friends are posting. With only a couple of exceptions, we all glowed with joy.

    Thanks for a great post.

  11. I’m bookmarking this in my “Wedding Stuff.” folder for when I’m officially planning and am starting to freak out. 🙂 Thank you so much! This is great. And that last line is SO in line with my own personal beliefs that I literally got chills. Beautiful.

  12. Thank you SO much for posting this! My wedding is still 8 months away…but there are times when I already catch myself going into control freak mode, and find myself unable to let go of all the little things that might go wrong- for instance, forgetting to bring something with us, having way too much food leftover, nobody getting up to dance etc etc. Your post definitely served to remind me that some things are just way out of my control- and, as long as my DF and I end up married, then the day will be a huge success no matter what!

    I have to say, though- I really relate to your fear of having friends leave your wedding early! A handful of my really close friends ending up leaving our engagement party WAY early- which actually really upset me, to be honest. 🙁 I’m really scared the same people will duck out of our wedding early as well. However, once again, how they might be feeling on the day is out of my hands. So, just another thing to let go of!

  13. Just shared this on my Facebook. I have a lot of engaged friends…and this is something that I think they should all read. So well done…and its all SO true ^_^

  14. Yuh huh, all true! And YAYYY for the Gambrill State Park Tea Room! I thought I recognized it from the picture, and then confirmed. It was our first venue choice, but didn’t work for us, sadly. 🙁

    But kudos on the attitude to rock it right!

  15. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you! I try not to get caught up in everything but I turn into a crazy person every once in a while (ok all the darn time)! This comes the day before my engagement photos which I was dreading. But in 10 days….Thanky you again!

  16. Aww! Thank you for all the kind words!!!

    I did a LOT of perspective shifting before (during) & after our weddingtypething. Most what I had written in this post held true (the morning was hectic, one eye looked better than the other, no one danced – but with good reason, and EVERYTHING ran late). Some bits were better (yay for good hair days and truly AMAZING moments with friends plus both Girls & Junior were perfectly well mannered, and to my knowledge no one was offended) and others worse (a lot of folks couldn’t make it or had to duck out early, my mother was less than sociable so we have fewer than a dozen photos of her out of the 1200 that were taken and of those only three are good); some bits were completely unexpected (the electrical panel was half fried so we had long periods without power which meant no music, no caramel apples, uniced cupcakes and crab dip that was heated -i kid you not- by candle). It’s been nearly 7 months now and we (and our friends, and our family) still talk about it & make jokes over the things that went “wrong”. We have amazing memories that couldn’t possibly have been planned: a hip hop speech citing all manner of trivia from the wedsite performed by my husband’s aunt and cousin; a first dance DJ’ed by our Geek of Honor’s iPhone during one of the many power outages; a completely unwritten, unrehearsed ceremony that included whipping a ring box out of my cleavage, several Mel Brooks references & the phrase “as is”; and the very unexpected sight of me cleaning the venue, loading a moving truck, and jamming to the radio on the return drive with my new daughters all while wearing my leaf covered, still bustled wedding dress and vintage boots (with plenty of help from dear friends… and all done mostly by flashlight).

    So much has happened in the last 7 months that the weddingtypething feels like it was an eternity ago but I have to say every moment, even the nowhere near perfect ones, was totally worth it. Had I not let go of the notions of so-called “perfection” I couldn’t have enjoyed all that. I wish you all the same beauty we had… but I’m kind of hoping you have electricity too 🙂

  17. Oh and I should add the bio is wrong the tally is only up to two teenaged (step)daughters 🙂

  18. I understand about the reality and expectations. I felt the same as Boxer. Even after the wedding I felt extremely guilty that I didn’t do more for decorations or ensure that all OOT guests got their wedding bags (they were just snacks that evidently people ate without even looking in the bag, hehe).

    But Boxer is right, what matters is that you marry the man/woman you love.

    The decorations, the gift bags, the somewhat ugly chairs will not be remembered after the wedding. What will be remembered are the amazing people who come to your wedding and celebrate with you.

    That is special and the wonderful reality of the wedding.

  19. “One eye will look better than the other.”


    OMG I thought I was the only one with this problem!

    Not only do I consistently do one eye better, but if anybody compliments me on my makeup I’m compelled to blurt out “Thanks but I messed up my left eye. ” Fucked up much?

    A great post and a good reminder about what matters, even for us non-brides!

  20. Deep down inside, I knew that all brides experience this, but reading it from someone else’s perspective gives me such a sense of relief. I am so Type A its ridiculous, and even though I am 11 months from the big day, I am constantly reminding myself that I cannot control everything that happens at my wedding, and I shouldnt want to. Things are going to go wrong; its inevitable, especially with my train wreck of a family. However, my sole job on that day is to simply enjoy the moment of it and bask in the love that Chad and I share while making memories that I can fondly look back on. Honestly, my biggest fear is that I will spend the day running around micromanaging everyone and I will look up, and it will all be over. So everyday I’m making an effort to let things go, so that on my wedding day I can laugh with my family, love my fiance, and live happily ever after.

  21. Wowzers. Timely nails hit on the head. Your hopes and fears mirror mine perfectly…with my own wedding less than two weeks away now its perspective I desperately need! Thankyou for articulating this.
    PS. A very wise and very fabulous man told me ALWAYS do your most difficult eye first, much easier to then match it on your easy side xx

  22. I so value this!!! What loving, wise words to help us reframe our nervous energy! Dealing with vulnerable people in dent all day I often have to help ‘manage their expectations’ (direct quote) so they feel reassured throughout the process and don’t take a melt down. But I never took the time to think about how to do this for myself… For something I’ve dreamed about my whole life! So grateful for this, I need to really write out my own expectations verses realities and then make joyful peace with it which will help me be calmer, be more present on the day, and hey, you may even then have a much better time in the end than even you imagined 😉 xoxoxo

  23. Fabulous article!

    If I may, I’ll add three more based on the weddings I’ve photographed — all three I can honestly say happen at least 95% of the time:

    1. The bride will not get as much attention as she expects. There will likely not be “natural” unscripted photos of all of her bridesmaids gazing adoringly as she slips into her dress, because they are all busy doing their own hair and makeup. To get “that” photo almost always requires the photographer to gently and quietly suggest that the bridesmaids step into the photo. And that’s really just the beginning of it. People do not treat the bride like a Queen — they have their own conversations and interests, and as long as the bride has realistic expectations, that’s all good. But not all brides have those realistic expectations.

    2. The groom will likely not cry or gaze adoringly at his bride as she walks down the aisle. Likely, he will look neutral or even stressed or mad — because that’s what men tend to do when they’re stressed and/or emotional and trying not to cry in front of their buddies. Brides always ask me for that amazing photo of the groom’s reaction and I always take it — but I rarely show it because most of the time, it would look very much like the groom wanted to be anywhere but there, which is (I’m assuming) not the case, but…

    3. Most people will ignore reception rituals. Most couples cut the cake without anyone watching but the photographer and the catering person waiting to serve it. People have to be harassed to participate in bouquet tosses and garter tosses — not because they don’t care, but because weddings have become so free form that guests just don’t know what to do or expect anymore, so they’re off doing their own thing most of the time.

    I offer these not to bum anyone out, but because I think, in the spirit of the article, if a bride has more realistic expectations of modern weddings and how they work, she’s less likely to come away disappointed when the fairy tale wedding doesn’t quite materialize — and maybe — just maybe — focus on the true meaning of the day, which isn’t about being the center of attention, but on making an adult commitment to love and support the person she loves.

  24. Well said! It’s been 2 years since our wedding and I will occasionally think of all the things that went differently than I had planned (and there were a lot of them!). But then I get to thinking about how fun and happy that day was, and how I wouldn’t change any of the mishaps and craziness for the world! 🙂

  25. with 30 days to go until our wedding, this is the best thing I could have read today 🙂

  26. You just wrote down everything I want for my wedding and everything I’ve feared will happen. And your article just helped me put it all into a new (and far more positive) perspective. Thank you 🙂

  27. I just need to say that I wrote out the last part of this (using a hot pink pen) and taped it on the wall over my dresser. This will be my mantra for the next five months leading up to my wedding, and I just wanted to thank you so much for sharing it.

  28. Thank you, thank you, thank you for writing this! I am a wedding planner, and you have said the things I WISH I could tell each and every one of my clients.

  29. I’m reading this 2 days before my wedding, helpful words of wisdom to remember 🙂

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