Something Bleu

Rue des Minimes

I stumbled upon this beautiful door near Place des Vosges one afternoon in May and was stunned by how vibrant it was. It provides a pretty, literal segue into a topic I’ve been meaning to address for a while now: my upcoming wedding (six weeks away! yikes!). You’ve heard the old wedding adage, “Something old, something new…” This is my something blue. Sorry, bleu.

I’ve made mention before about my lack of the culturally-dictated, Pinterest-level amount of excitement regarding the wedding. Don’t get me wrong, I could not be more thrilled about the nuptials themselves. I’ve known since Jamal and I started dating that we would be married one day, in a movie-style cliché: it was as if the sky got brighter and a crescendo of choral music flooded my ears. I can’t imagine a better person to share my life with, and I’m excited about growing old and (more) crotchety with him. He’s kind, he’s funny, he doesn’t care that I quote movies out loud while we’re watching them, and he never tries to steal my dessert. He’s also an incredibly hard worker, great with kids, and is a liberal. The stuff dreams are made of, people!

So I believe in our union. But the wedding? I could skip it. I would have gone to City Hall the day after we got back from Paris last year, newly engaged, and been done with the entire affair. For $50 we would have already celebrated our first anniversary by now. Throw in a nice, intimate dinner with our parents and immediate families, and I would have been pleased as punch. Also not broke.

Weddings these days have become spectacles, with all of the focus on the actual marriage lost somewhere between picking the perfect crudités and spending obscene amounts of money on a dress you’ll wear once. My dress was under $150, and that still seems like too much money. It’s five hours, and everyone has somehow become okay with the fact that it will be the most expensive five hours of your life, as if there is some correlation between spending $7,000 on a band (oh my god, we’re not) and a lifetime of happiness with one person. You are a bride for five hours, you are a wife for the rest of your life. I can’t help but think that if couples spent as much time thinking about the reality of their relationship as they do choosing table linens and crafting centerpieces, 53% of marriages in the US wouldn’t end in divorce.

This isn’t to say that some (most?) brides can muster equal amounts of excitement for both the wedding and the marriage. My own groom is one example. The two aren’t mutually exclusive. But they sort of are for me, and that’s okay. I’m not trying to say that big, expensive weddings can’t result in happy, lifelong marriages. I know plenty of happily married people! I also know a lot of divorced people, who separated for reasons that have nothing to do with their wedding, so I’m not implying a cause-and-effect here. But the amount of attention placed on weddings as some grand, fairytale day is just so not me. I get the sweats at the thought of everyone looking at me, or having to socialize for that many hours. It isn’t “my special day,” or any of the other hokey phrases that get tossed around the moment someone gets engaged. The excitement people harbor about weddings could be better directed towards the marriage. When did the first five hours of what will hopefully be a 50 year partnership become more important and worthy of celebration than, I don’t know, not killing each other by year 15?

I’ve shied away from talking about this because, as a woman-getting-married, to speak ill of the wedding seems to imply that you don’t want to get married. That couldn’t be farther from the truth! Am I horribly practical and unromantic for wanting Jamal as a partner rather than a groom? Maybe. He wanted a traditional wedding ceremony, so we are compromising and doing it our own way. Because I love him, and that is what you do in relationships. And he’s letting me put a bunch of New Kids on the Block songs on the list for our DJ, and I got mac and cheese as a side dish. Win-win!

I know I will survive the actual day –I may even enjoy myself!– but every time someone asks me, “How is wedding planning going?”, I physically have to restrain myself from eye-rolling out of my seat. Why does no one ask what our game-plan is if god forbid one of us falls really ill, or how we’re going to handle making sure our kid doesn’t grow up to be a sociopath? A marriage is so much more than a wedding. I’d rather focus on one than the other.

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August 1, 2014 / art / photo / Paris / travel / wedding / LEAVE A COMMENT / 41

41 comments

  • Great post Erin which exactly reflects my thoughts. We are getting married in October after 11 years together and a daughter and the day will be much more about celebrating our past and future life together than being The best day of our lives. I hope we have many many more best days., not that one only.
    I wish you good luck for your life together as it’s not always easy but definitely worth it !

    • Thank you, Stephanie! The pressure placed on making one day out of thousands “the best day of your life” as you said, is so ridiculous to me, and I just can’t get on board with it. What a let-down for people who build the day up to unreachable heights! Congratulations on 11 years and a daughter! Wishing you and your beau many, many more years together. You’re clearly doing something right already! xo

  • The thing you don’t really know until your own wedding day, is that everyone is just so happyyyyyyy. It’s just a room full of the happiest, smiliest people. We were going to do the eloping thing but I’m glad we didn’t because other people’s excitement about your wedding is infectious and makes you even more excited. Just wait until that last couple of weeks before.
    We planned our wedding around what we thought would work for our guests, rather than us. We spent our money on food and drinks and made sure everything was easy for them and as a result it was a totally fun, relaxed day. x

    • This is just going to sound horrible, but…I don’t like people. Well, okay, that’s not true. Large groups of people make my skin hurt, and I end up so uncomfortable from all that forced socializing and having to be “on.” It actually hurts, regardless of whether or not the occasion is a happy or sad one. I love everyone we’ve invited and know they are all coming to celebrate and to shower us with love and joy. I know that. But my chest still gets tight at the thought of it. I don’t find it fun on any level, yet. Get me a champagne cocktail and maybe I’ll feel differently? I just want J, not any of the fanfare. But that’s just me. And as Charlotte on SATC said, “Every bride has to find her own style.” :) xo

  • Je te souhaite un bonne journée Erin même si parfois le jour de mariage semble difficile! Si je devais faire mon mariage à nouveau, je referais tout diffèrent! En commençant pour la robe, tu as raison! Je choisirais une robe à Zara, des sandales plat pour danser et je ferait le mariage à la campagne!
    Les préparatoires du mariage pour moi c’était presque l’enfer, préparé un mariage c’est ne pas facile mais un mariage entre deux pays, c’est encore pire!
    Mais tu as compris déjà bien avant moi que tu ça c’est superflue ! que l’important c’est le reste des années que tu a passer avec Jamal! Tu as la chance, mon mari me pique tout le temps mon dessert et ça m’énerve!!
    Je te souhaite beaucoup de bonheur le reste de ta vie avec Jamal :) xo xo

    • Je sais que je vais passer un bonne journée à la fête de mariage. Toutes mes personnes préférées seront là, donc je sera heureuse. Mais le stress! L’argent! Quelle couleur des serviettes? Quel type de alcool? Combien de hors d’oeuvres? Ahhh. Les preparatoires du mariage c’est presque l’enfer pour moi, aussi!! Je veux Jamal, et c’est tout. Hm, peut-être un bon dessert aussi ;) xoxo

  • Hmmm. I don’t think focusing on the wedding means that you’re not focusing on the marriage. I’m a firm believer in both, actually. I agree with Annie. Weddings are meant to be a celebration of making a commitment to walk forward on the path of life together, and why not take great joy in the celebration of that step? We need more joy and more celebration, not less. Marriage is so very, very important to me, and do I agree with the over-pinteretization of… I don’t know, life in general? Nope. But weddings? I love those. Looking back, I honestly wish I’d spent more time enjoying the process of planning mine.

    • I see what you’re saying, and I hope I made it clear in my post that while some people can be excited about/focus on both (and I’m happy for them! I didn’t spell that out explicitly), I’m struggling. I would compare it to graduation parties; no one throws you a “Hooray! You Start College Tomorrow!” party. Instead, they celebrate your accomplishment at the end. You could drop out, fail out, not make it through. It seems silly to celebrate the beginning of something. Except babies, obviously! There can never be enough excitement over babies. :)

      I’m trying to be gentler on myself and just enjoy the process. But damn, am I happy we took 18 months to plan this thing. xo

  • Something blue…six weeks….I’m so excited and happy for you!

    • Ha, I know you are! You’ve been unfailingly excited throughout this whole process. It’s almost infectious ;) xo

      • :) back at you!

  • OK, that wasn’t meant to rhyme. The original post came through as a single paragraph so I gave a brief answer. Celebrating a blessing like finding your life’s partner is important. Celebrating like I wanted you to is….. well……….not for you and I respect that. JML is perfect for you as you are for him. You have already learned some of the most important parts of a relationship….to love and to compromise.

    • Ah, okay, I thought that was an uncharacteristically brief response from you! I still find it so funny that YOU were anti-bride and anti-wedding, too, at your own nuptials (the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, clearly) but what’s even funnier is that you have no shortage of excitement for MY wedding! It’s good though, you understand where I’m coming from and aren’t (too) pushy, but are still super happy. If all those marathons of “Say Yes to the Dress” we binged through on your sofa taught us anything, some mothers and daughters have a rough go of it during the planning. No merci. xo

      • If it makes you happy, it makes me happy….until the candy bar, ice cream sundae bar, decorate your own cupcake bar, Viennese table, waiters carrying flambe crepes, Mummers band, landscape crew, arrive!

        • This is why you are not allowed to be involved in planning. Those are the trappings of a circus, woman!

  • How well I can understand your thoughts concerning the wedding! (My husband and I got married in the “hôtel de ville” 32 years ago…) But, what matters is that you love each other, the rest comes by itself and doesn´t depend of what kind of wedding you choose.
    Why not make a very small photocopy of that beautiful blue french door and put that under your dress? I´m sure it will bring luck! ;-)

    • Thank you!! I do so love that in France, you have to have a small civil ceremony before anything else, otherwise it isn’t valid. That seems simple and lovely. Congratulations on 32 years!! xo

  • I can totally relate to how you’re feeling. I love weddings (how could I not? I built a business focused on them!) but when it came to ME actually planning a wedding, I had a hard time getting into it. I wanted to elope actually, but we ended up having a traditional ceremony for our families (and my fiance – he was really into the traditional church ceremony thing). I will say, though, that the church ceremony ended up being a good thing because to get married in the Catholic church, we had to do pre-Cana sessions, which is basically pre-marriage couples counseling. I thought it would be really church-focused and all about the Catholic church’s perspective on marriage but it wasn’t like that at all. It made us think & talk about the important things about being married, not just having a wedding, like big-picture family goals, kids, finances, and even the scary stuff like how we’d cope with loss or betrayal. It got me to approach the wedding planning in a totally different frame of mind and made the wedding day itself even more meaningful to us. It made it more about celebrating this commitment we’ve made to each other and showing our appreciation to our loved ones for all the support they’ve given us and will continue to give throughout our relationship rather than it just being about how to have the prettiest dress, best band, most amazing food, “best day ever” stuff.

    • I would have eloped, too, but, like you, my fiancé wanted a traditional ceremony, and to be honest, I really wanted my grandmother to be there. I’ve heard mixed things from my friends that have had pre-Cana sessions, but I’m happy to hear yours were so beneficial! It really is refreshing to shift the focus away from the insignificant “best day ever” details to the larger picture stuff. It’s so important and I’m worried it gets overlooked so often! xo

  • well, i’ll agree with you :) not that i think it’s something to agree about or not. but i can say i feel the same way. i get that others (most) might not, but the idea of spending 3-5 g’s on a dress makes me feel sick. think of the vacation you could take, that could be 3-4 months livelihood for a family in need, or a years worth somewhere else, that could help pay some kids first semester in college. to me when i can’t help but feel it’s glutinous. a (long) momentary lapse of reason. and i see what you are saying: i do also think sometimes people get married because they picture the wedding, not the life. but i also understand the excitement of it. i have been to a couple really fun weddings of very good friends who tried to keep the costs way down and still, 20 grand, for a country wedding. but then i wouldn’t have changed at thing. so much fun. for me, i believe in commitment above all. and i do believe it is in your actions everyday. not just one. wedding or not. marriage or not. i do hope that even though it’s totally out of your comfort zone (people! scary! i get that too), you are able to enjoy it and see the beautiful parts of it. lots of people have both an amazing marriage and wedding. i am hoping the same for you. be the exception erin ;) i am SURE you will look back and have very fond memories. xo

    • The charity thing struck me as well, once we started getting quotes from different vendors. Do you know how much good a non-profit could do with the amount we’re spending on just our photographer? How many books it could buy needy children, how many meals it could give homeless veterans? It’s so upsetting, and it’s another reason I have trouble mustering enthusiasm for the grand expense of this whole wedding. I love J, can’t that be enough? Why do we have to say we love each other This Many Dollars Worth?

      My parents were never married (they’d each been divorced before) and despite the non-traditional upbringing I had, it was a great example of making a commitment to a relationship and a family without the fanfare of a wedding. I mean, they ended up breaking up when I was 5, sooo, maybe not the best example? Haha I’m all about the marriage, though. xoxo

  • while i totally get your feelings about weddings, i wonder why you don’t just DO the civil variation at City Hall? are you getting pressure from family? if so, that’s tough and you are probably at a point where enough time/money/energy has been put into the planning to change things anyway. so i gues the best thing, is to find another perspetive. fanfare aside, friends and family are happy to celebrate the SIGNIFICANCE of the big day: love! it reminds them of their own and that’s a good thing. and if all else fails, throw back that champagne cocktail and cut out early! haHA! ;)

    • I hear you, Lucinda, and I definitely made a decent case for it! But my fiancé just wasn’t sold, and it was important to him to have a real wedding with all his family and friends in attendance (literally all. as in every person he’s ever known). I just wanted my grandmother to see it. We’re compromising though, and I really do love the venue we picked (small, darling) and I have been making sure we aren’t getting carried away….and not-so-subtly reminding him “Well, I did suggest City hall…” every time a bill comes in for some vendor ;) I like your plan though! Halfway through the night someone might ask, “Where’s Erin?” and I’ll be at the hotel in bed watching House Hunters, haha. xo

  • Every sentence in this post is perfect. I completely agree with your view point. I’m the type that would not spend a lot on a wedding dress (even my $400 dress was at the top of what I wanted to spend), and even on things that our families wanted to “gift” to us (his mom offering to pay for a photographer, for example) I refused to chose a photographer that cost more than I would personally spend on one. From what it sounds like, everything you’ve spent money on, you’re comfortable with that amount, and your getting some things you love out of it (mac n cheese hello!).

    A lot of what was so overwhelming and distracting for my own wedding was the traditions. We wanted to incorporate some, and some we wanted to nix, no big deal. However, with families involved and opinions everywhere, it’s hard to stay true to yourself and also make every one happy at the same time. Thankfully, we came out of it loving every minute of our wedding day, and not caring if our guests liked or disliked our decor/DJ/linens bc in the end, we loved it all. The one regret, I really wishing we could have spent more time with each individual person. It’s so so hard with timing. I think you’re eliminating some traditions from what we talked about, so I hope that you find the time to have a conversation with everyone :)

    And 6 weeks?! 6 weeks! Time is flying by.. I was sitting at my office desk (just like I am now) when I first read your engagement post… I’m so happy for you and Jamal!

    • Another practical bride! Jamal and I are paying for this wedding ourselves; mostly because we couldn’t in good faith ask our retired parents to chip-in, and also because once people start having a financial stake in things, they start getting opinions about how this or that should be. The more opinions we have involved, the harder it would be to stay true to the vision we wanted. It’s easier to say “no” to someone when they haven’t given a decent chunk of change towards the day. We are also nixing a fair amount of traditions. We are walking in together, not having bridal party entrances at dinner, not doing first dances, not cutting cake or doing a bouquet or garter toss. I’m not even wearing white! It’s basically a dinner party with some dancing. ;)

      I’ll keep your advice in mind! Our wedding is going to be small (around 90 people) so hopefully I can at least have a quick chat with the majority of the guests.

      Thank you thank you!! xo

  • I 100% agree with everything you’ve written here. It’s just way too much fuss, money and stress for such a short period of time and people have managed to make such an industry out of it that everything is ridiculously overpriced. But, unlike you, I only realized I could have done without having had a big wedding after it happened. We had a civil ceremony before the big wedding and that day was perfect and one of the happiest days of my life. There were seven people in total and everyone was ecstatic and it was just perfect. I thought that the big wedding would be like that except better because there would be more people to contribute to the happiness. But it wasn’t. The more people you have, the more you’re doing things for people you don’t really care about. That’s what I found. We didn’t cut the cake when we wanted to, we didn’t even have time to eat. Things went wrong! After all of that fuss and money, things can go wrong and be forgotten out of the wedding. There was a schedule and we put on a show for other people but we didn’t get to run it. Everyone else did. My mother-in-law planned the wedding and, as a result, most of the invitees were people we didn’t know or know well. So it’s possible that big weddings the actual bride and groom organize are very different. But I never would have planned a big wedding on my own. The parts I did have to plan were already overbearing enough. Anyway! All of that being said, we had a really beautiful wedding and I was really happy on that day and I had a really good time. And I love looking back at our photos. But it just does not compare to how I feel about our civil wedding.

    All in all, I’m glad that your focus is on the right aspects of the marriage and that you’re not overwhelmed with the details that ultimately have nothing to do with you guys.

    • First off: congratulations on your wedding!! I know I’m super belated, but the photos I saw on fb were so beautiful. I know I’ve been out of the LJ world for a few years and I guess I missed the big announcement of your engagement, if there was one, so the wedding was such a delightful surprise! How is married life so far? I assume you had a civil wedding first because you had to, legally? That’s how it works in France (of course I know this) and I’ve always thought that small civil ceremonies are far more intimate and special. So happy you had that experience!

      “The more people you have, the more you’re doing things for people you don’t really care about.” PREACH. It was obviously so generous for people to pitch in financially, but I completely agree with you, and I was willing to spend my own money if it meant limiting the amount of chefs in the kitchen. I keep hearing people complain that they didn’t get to eat at their own wedding, and my best friend/maid of honor is making it her duty to make sure I eat, haha. As happy as I am that so many people have RSVP’d yes and want to come, I’m not going to bend over backwards to make sure they have every whim catered to. It’s about me and J, and I’m keeping my focus there. xoxo

      • Thank you! Married life is not very different from living together before we were married. Actually, in some respects it is, because both the mister and his family are super conservative. So now we can sleep in the same room when we go visit. Hehehe! I think that marriage has changed the way in which other people see us as a couple much more than anything else.

        We didn’t need to have the civil wedding first, but we decided to do it because we wanted our paperwork to be in English and from the US. We had our religious ceremony in Nicaragua. We were a little bit practical about some of the choices we made. We both have passports from different countries so we wanted to not have to translate our wedding certificate as much as possible.

        Yes yes yes! It’s great that you’re keeping your focus on the main reason the wedding is happening! :)

        • You guys were already the most worldly couple I could name, just based on the country that issued your passports! But then you had to go and get married in Nicaragua and really solidify it for me ;) xo

  • You’ve emanated my exact thoughts on the whole ‘wedding vs marriage’ thing. After giving news of our elopement, Shawn and I noticed a lot of people didn’t quite understand our decision, despite our explanation. One of my good girlfriends was even really upset she never got a chance to throw me a bridal shower (…really? When did I ever mention I even wanted such a hokey thing?!). People couldn’t understand that we never wanted the big party, we didn’t need all the gifts, we didn’t want to make a big deal of the whole thing. Shawn and I have known each other for almost ten years, and to us it just seemed like the practical next step. We had known for years that we were going to spend the rest of our lives together… it just didn’t seem like a momentous occasion once it really came down to it. Not that it wasn’t worthy of celebration! But it was OUR celebration, it was something we were doing for ourselves, it was our next step – it didn’t need to be public domain. For me it really came down to the fact that I didn’t want to call him my boyfriend anymore, because he was so much more than that. I’m not even sure husband is a more appropriate word, but it’s certainly more fitting than boyfriend. The point is, we couldn’t wait to be married to each other, and we didn’t have the time/money/desire to throw a wedding to show people as much. The wedding is for the guests, the marriage is for the bride and groom. Good for you for focusing on the latter! It’s what will carry you through the rest of these splendid years together :)

    • You could always have friends and family like mine, who ignored everything I ever said about not wanting a shower (we didn’t register, specifically to avoid having a shower) and threw me a surprise one anyway! It turned out to be a lovely day, but I never wanted one, and probably would have had a better time if people didn’t bring gifts. I’m really uncomfortable with all that attention! I’ll be a wreck at the actual wedding ;)

      I am envious of your elopement! A cousin of mine eloped in Hawaii probably 15 years ago and even at a young age I knew that was the coolest thing going! You expressed really beautifully why it worked for you guys, and I can’t believe people would be unsupportive! Here’s to many happy years for you and Shawn. xo

  • a date!!!!

    she gave me a date!!!

    -happy dance-

    a date!!!

    ,-)

    and you can view your own wedding, in any way you wish!!! you can! you can! you can!

    tessa~

    • Ha! I appreciate the encouragement!! xo

  • Haha.. ummm how is the wedding planning going? lol

    You know if I had to do it all over again- I would have just gotten married Tim and I on some tropical SE Asian island just us two, like we wanted. We thought we had to do a big wedding because of our family. I would have just thrown a party when we got back because I always think it’s important to celebrate such a big mile stone… especially when people compliment you all day and you get presents. I think the only big piece of advice I wish I would have given to myself for my wedding planning is do exactly what you want and with out any regrets because it’s your special moment between the two of you.

    • I’m so with you, Erika, though I would still likely have needed some persuading for the big party, haha. I’m definitely taking the “do exactly what you want and without any regrets” advice to heart, and will be repeating that mantra for the next six weeks :) xo

  • I’m totally with you on the “hrrrrrng wedding” thing. Though I was sort of required to have a big ass wedding (Iranian family, their only son, seven million cousins…you get the picture) it was the actual civil ceremony in the mairie de 17eme with just our parents as witnesses that was “our wedding”. That monstrosity that grew out of control that I showed you in our wedding book was just an excuse for a bunch of people who live in a country that forbids alcohol and dancing to freak the hell out in France, as far as I’m concerned. They deserved it, the poor things. If it helps, just imagine everyone at your wedding ‘do is trapped in a dance/cake/dress/music-forbidden theocracy. It worked for me!

    • Hahaha I might have to keep that theory in mind on the day. It’s already making me feel like one hell of a charitable hostess. I do love that in France, and I said this above to someone else who didn’t get married in the states, you have to have a small civil ceremony with the maire d’arrondissement to make it legal. The second wedding is, well, extra. Yours was super lovely though! I still feel like part of the cool kids club for having seen The Book ;) xo

  • Agree agree agree and agree some more. This is exactly how I feel about weddings and marriage. I can’t get over all the (unnecessary) stress involved in wedding preparations but I also understand that it’s the coming together of two families and the celebration of both of them. Is it really about the couple? It’s also telling that my favourite weddings that I’ve attended have been more about the people than the party

    • Thanks girl! I think the families coming together aspect is so sweet, and I wish there wasn’t such a societal need to make such a show over something that, really, is so lovely and special on its own. I don’t need confetti canons to prove to everyone how excited I am, haha. xo

  • You’re my kind of lady! :) I too went through similar experiences and happy that we stayed true to the wedding day we wanted. Potluck picnic for us in a park that was special to us. Congratulations on your upcoming nuptials!! By the way, je suis moi aussi francophile and I’ve bookmarked your blog. Love it!

    • A potluck picnic sounds beautiful, and so intimate!! Congratulations on your wedding, Vanessa. I hope, even though we have 90 people coming, it will still feel intimate and not overwhelming. Thank you for reading!! xo

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