Monday, March 27, 2006

Beyond the Pale

One of my closest friends, Fuchsia, is getting married later this year. Yesterday, I went with her to look at wedding dresses. There were five of us in total: the bride to be, two singletons included me, one woman who is in a serious relationship (but was sweet to say that she is used to being the only single person in a group and is surprised that she has someone), and another who overcame a broken engagement, but had gone as far as buying the dress (she was so astute and asked all the right questions; I told her she'd make an amazing wedding planner).

Fuchsia is the closest thing I have to a sister. While some women would feel a twinge of sadness or jealousy at her impending nuptials, I am nothing less than thrilled for her. I know how many years she has waited for the right man, how she never thought she'd find anyone, and how much she deserves this.

She looked beautiful in every single dress she tried on. There was one gown that was particularly stunning, and when they pinned a long veil to her hair and I saw the complete picture in the full-length mirror it brought tears to my eyes. I know these giant life changes are happening all around us and these rites of passage occur every day, but when it happens to somebody close to you, it's kind of staggering.

Needless to say, it got me thinking about my own ideas about marriage and, specifically, The Big Day. Yesterday's outing, much as I enjoyed it, made me realize something once and for all:

I don't want a traditional white (or off-white, ivory, beige or champagne-colored) wedding.

I suppose this is just the latest in a growing list of unpopular opinions. Maybe the same girl-gene I'm missing that's supposed to instill a passion for chocolate (I can take or leave it) and shopping for shoes (hate it!) also controls Modern-Bride-reading, dream-wedding-planning impulses. While looking through catalogs and racks of wedding gowns, I did not see a single one I'd want to wear (I wouldn't go for anything light-colored, anyway). There were a number of breathtaking dresses, but after a while they all blurred together. Also, unless you luck out at a sample sale, a decent gown with all the trimmings goes for a couple of thousand dollars (to start). That's money that could be put toward a kick-ass honeymoon, if you ask me. Having said that, seeing how lovely Fuchsia looked in the pricier gowns made me want to fork over a credit card, say "pick any one you want" and insist she get the $650 hand-embroidered Italian floor-length veil as well.

I love seeing this happen for her. However, I know I don't want it to happen in the same way for me. In fact, this may sound strange, but I don't want anybody I know at my wedding besides my husband-to-be.

Society promotes the concept of sharing your union with your family and friends, but when I picture pledging my undying love in front of a crowd, my immediate reaction is to cringe and imagine how invasive it would feel. I mean, I already know I'm going to cry like a little girl at Fuchsia's wedding, so I can only speculate at what kind of waterworks are going to be going on when it's my turn. It's such an intimate act and I can't bear the thought turning the ceremony into even a minor spectacle--unless, of course, there's an Elvis impersonator involved. I don't mind having a big look-at-us-we're-married-isn't-that-wild party later, but the the event itself... should be private. I'd much rather get hitched in the Tibetan mountains or within Peru's Nazca lines or along the Irish coastline... somewhere either remote and tranquil or somewhere teeming and chaotic, like Tokyo, Hong Kong... or, of course, Vegas.

Now that's my idea of a dream wedding: the groom, myself, and The King. I'll take that over a Vera Wang fairy tale any day.

30 comments:

Horse said...

You should invite just your blogger friends to your wedding...no? Ok, well, I tried...

So, you don't feel the need to have a whole bunch of people around to validate your union with their presence? It seems to me to speak to your idea of the nature and scope of love itself.

Some people see it as the big 1000 ships, Helen of Troy, sir Galahad type. I think these are the kinds of people that go for the big weddings. I used to see things that way: here comes horse and, pony-their union is a strong and tangible as the rock of Gibraltar itself.

I don't feel that way anymore, and I don't think you do either. Love is just evident in the little things you do with and for one another, like when you and your loved one both notice the same cloud at the same time, and you're both conscious that your others noticed the exact same cloud and you don't really have to say anything. Or being able to identify in someone else a higher emotional resolution, or an extra color that only you can see, and you think it's beautiful. I've been gravitating more toward that lately--to quote Derrida "an affirmative desire toward the Other." I think you might feel the same way.

Is this how you always pictured your wedding since you were a little girl? I mean, when you discussed it with other girls?

NotMiranda said...

A friend just wore black to her wedding. She looked smashing.

Dolly said...

Horse,
I'm sorry to disappoint you, but as a little girl I didn't sit around with other girls talking about what our dream weddings would be like. We were too busy pretending we were characters in The Facts of Life.

NotMiranda,
I don't know your friend, but I already love her.

Horse said...

Dolly: Shows what I know about girls, I guess.

notmiranda: Was it this kind of wedding?

pookalu said...

hmm, when will the time come when i have my own wedding? that option seems farther and farther away, but maybe it's because i'm just down today! there is light at the end of the tunnel. and i think all this while i am searching for a wedding gift for a friend of mine! seriously weird karma -- first shopping for a wedding gift, then reading your post....

your solo wedding adventure is very much akin to how i feel about my impending graduation ceremony -- i have no desire to do it, i've accomplished what i wanted, but unfortunately i have to take one for the family. weddings, though, are a slightly different matter, i can totally understand the desire to remember it with just the two of you.

and anyway, it reminds me of a couple of male friends of mine, who have bucked part of the ritual, and made their female friends part of the groom's party.

Horse said...

Pookalu: two of my best friends from college got married recently, and the bride had a "Man of Honor."
It was pretty cute, but not as good for us single guys :(

Dolly: I'm not so sure that bucking tradition is such a good idea, all the time. How do you think your folks will feel about your incipient decision to elope?

CoatMan said...

Why bother with a wedding at all? It's perfectly possible to have a fulfilling long-term relationship without one. What exactly does ceremony add?

Bill said...

But one often overlooked aspect of the larger-style wedding is the opportunity to throw one last great party (often on someone else's tab) for all of those that you and your spouse love.

People love coming to the big weddings because besides being witness to a ceremony (which to be honest in my tradition usually lasts all of about 35 minutes) they get to see so many other friends and relatives they haven't seen in a long time--and party with them. And on top of THAT, they get to make new friends. Your remaining single friends in particular will love this.

In fact it seems clear to me that other than getting to invite the guests and enjoy a solid evening of everyone one you know telling you how great you and your new spouse are, the real enjoyment is for everybody BUT the guests of honor.

So the real question is whether you'll deprive them of that? I guess I'm suggesting that it might be MORE selfish to deprive those who love you, care for you, and support you of the opportunity to participate in this big day. They will probably want to be there more than you want them there.

My two cents. Sorry if that comes off as criticizing your point of view. Its meant rather to suggest a different perspective--and in a mildly cheeky fashion. I think if I preferred having my hypothetical marriage with no one else around, I'd do it just that way.

Horse said...

...throw one last great party (often on someone else's tab) for all of those that you and your spouse love.

Is this why your name is Bill? :)

jo said...

one of my good friends got married recently and i was helping out in the wedding. it's really so amazing to see your friend in a wedding gown looking so happy and excited and know that she has found a fabulous guy to spend her life with.

Damn It Anyway said...

Coatman-
"Why bother with a wedding at all? It's perfectly possible to have a fulfilling long-term relationship without one."

I agree..but c'mon..we're talking about the whole Princess thing women want to feel.

pawlr said...

I love the idea of the King at a wedding.

What about this - imagine him as the Minister.

"Do you, uh, take.. this man." [shoulder shimmy] "uh.. to be your LAWFUL wedded wife. ah uh huh." [hip thrust].

And when the bride tosses her bouquet to the ladies, High Priest Elvis tosses his sequined Roman collar to the gentlemen.

Oh, to be a fly on the wall that day. :)

Dolly said...

Pookalu,
Downtown-Chic posted an excellent statistic in her blog about how 88% of single women in our generation will get married. They said if marriage was a disease, the odds of us catching it would be scary. That has been my favorite fun fact of late, so I'm spreading it to all my single friends.

Horse,
So many questions! I feel like I'm on Barbara Walters.

Coatman,
I have wondered throughout my life whether I want to get married at all. For a while, I decided I preferred to shack up with a guy. However, I just have this strong feeling that I will get married. It's just something I innately know without being able to explain. Oh, and I do want the rock (I'll forgo the foufy dress and flower arrangements and all the bells and whistles for the engagement ring).

Bill,
Didn't you see in my post that I wrote about having a wedding party? I want everyone to celebrate, I just don't want them there when I actually tie the knot. As you said, in some ways the ceremony becomes more of an event for the guests than for the couple. I want the special day to be all about me and the guy.

Jo,
It really is mind-blowing, isn't it? Even though my friend is a number of years older than me, I also keep getting an "aw, Fuchsia is all grown up" feeling, too.

Damn it,
This may sound strange, but I'd rather feel like a rock star than a princess on my wedding day. I'm thinking I might choose a feather boa over a veil.

Pawlr,
Um, actually, I did mean Elvis as the minister! What's the point of having him there if he's not going to do the honors? Other than to sing "Can't Help Falling in Love" immediately after the ceremony, that is.

Horse said...

Dolly: In matters of your experiences, I defer to your wisdom (phenomenology, baby! Husserl in da HizzOWWWSE). I learned that the hard way.

If you feel like answering any of em, please indulge me, because I love to learn about interesting people, and you are very much that.

I was on the spanish steps in Rome one time, and there was an Elvis impersonator there! He had really weak english, so his idea of impersonation was "You ain't nothing but a hound dog, mumblemumblemumble You ain't nothing but a hound dog!"
I wanted to get married right then and there!

Don't rule out the king, no matter where you happen to be. In the immortal words of Mojo Nixon: "Elvis is Everywhere!"

NotCarrie said...

It may be hard to believe since I admitted to reading Bride but, I totally agree about the actual wedding part being small and intimate. But I'm going to have a CRAZY party/reception afterwards for everyone I know to come to.

Dolly said...

NotCarrie,
Wow, you read Bride even while being single? Do lots of girls do this? It's not something I've ever done, but I could see it being fun to fantasize. After all, I did once visit adiamondisforever.com to design my ideal engagement ring (in my defence, this was during the longest, most serious relationship of my life, during which the topic did come up).

CoatMan said...

What would you feel about somebody whom you very much liked, but who was opposed in principle to marriage, although genuinely committed to a long-term relationship with you?

Of course, it's possible to have a nice ring with or without a ceremony...

Dolly said...

Coatman,
Good question. Bear in mind that I'm interested in having kids someday, and I think society makes it easier for married couples. Would I consider a committed relationship without the wedding? Maybe.

I'd need to see that rock first.

CoatMan said...

I'm intrigued as to the emphasis on the "rock": why do you think that a wedding ring with a precious stone in it is so important, in the grand scheme of things? Is not a man's affection, devotion, attention and (in your case at least) ability to sire, care and provide for children enough?

Dolly said...

Coatman,
I am mostly kidding. However, the engagement ring is important to me, because it's the one part of the fairy tale I want to hold on to. For most women, it's the actual wedding day and doing the princess thing. I'm willing to forgo that for a simple, intimate, and unconventional wedding. I would even forgo the honeymoon. However, the one thing I have wanted ever since I was a little girl was the ring. I am willing to be flexible about a lot of things with regard to the man I want to spend the rest of my life with, but I stand by the romantic proposal and the ring. It's not a matter of materialism and having a giant expensive rock, but it's what it stands for. Hell, I don't care if I get proposed to with a crackerjack ring (which would later be swapped for something more appropriate) as long as the question is popped in a sweet way. Think of it this way: if I met a man I wanted to spend the rest of my life with, I would do anything within reason to make him happy, including spend thousands of dollars on a piece of jewelry he wanted with all his heart (though in a guy's case, it would probably be something like stereo equipment). If a man I love can't respect that the proposal/ring is a big ol' romantic dream of mine, then he'll never really get me.

Betty on the Beach said...

Yeah - I share your feelings about having a wedding too actually. Though I do have the girl gene for shoe shopping, I somehow missed out on the, "I want a wedding gene" too. I think it's a really intimate thing too and I'd much rather elope and run away. And having to deal with my extended family (we've all heard of Italian weddings). The only thing is that I'd probably want to buy the dress.

Pretty Polly said...

coatman,

I also share Dolly's opinions on the "ideal" wedding. But can't imagine wanting to raise kids with someone who was "opposed" to marriage "in principle." Legally, you're much more protected if the guy decides he wants to run off, or screw some younger broad, if you're married. I wouldn't feel comfortable taking chances with my future or my kids' future by forgoing the legal stuff.

coasta said...

Polly,

Speaking of being legally protected, these days as a guy, I wouldn't get married without a solid prenup. The number of women I've met who are looking to land their nest egg is ridiculous, and since the courts/society protect the woman, a man has to protect himself.

I hear women object to the prenup thing as lacking trust, nobility, or romance. Unfortunately, that doesn't stop them from taking half the man's assets, the kids, and requiring living support.

These days, with the length of time people live, the me-first-instant-gratification sociocultural climate, and the current legal structure, marriage is not only a romantic/spiritual union, but social, financial, business partnership as well. You got to have insurance.

Pretty Polly said...

coasta,

I'm not opposed to a prenup. Nothing wrong with that! It protects the man from getting too much taken away--but still gives the woman protection as well. Best of both worlds.

Dolly said...

Considering how, in this day and age, the woman is often the breadwinner, I could see a prenup protecting against gold-digging husbands, too (or at least starving artist ones, which was the case of one woman I knew, who had a messy divorce).

Even so, I can't help but find prenups... icky. I don't want to enter a union preparing for its dissolution, practical or not. I feel like it creates a bad vibe to the idea of a wedding. I mean, I don't plan on marrying a millionaire, but if I got engaged to one and he asked me nicely to sign one, I'd do it. But in that case I would demand getting wed by Elvis. Fair is fair.

coasta said...

Polls and Dolls,

Nothing wrong with protecting the woman either....lawyers tend to have a way of fucking everything up either way.

I totally agree with the "preparing for its dissolution" and "bad vibe" comments. Introducing the idea of a prenup just ain't smooth. However with divorce rate at an astonishing 60%+....how could you not?

I mean, if I eventually do get married, I intend for it to be as vowed, "til death do us part". That's one of the reasons I'm waiting til I'm older (late 30s early 40s) to think about marriage. I want myself to be emotionally and spiritually mature before I work on building something else with a partner. Most girls don't obviously have to wait as long --> you guys mature a bit faster it seems. End rambling.

But on the brightside...I now know that I can introduce the troubling subject of the prenup...and quickly allay all fears/doubts....by promising that Elvis will preside over the ceremony! Huge wait off my shoulders. :)

'Tis a beautiful thing.

arrogantcow said...

I married young, and had the big family wedding. I wouldn't have changed it for the world. There's nothing wrong with wanting to share the ceremony with everyone you love, you know. Of course, nor is there anything wrong with wanting to do it in private, either. Each to their own.

On the "why bother?" note: Well, where I live, there are serious tax breaks and legal entitlements (like next of kin rights) for married couples (something I hope will change soon, other serious relationships deserve the same rights as those who've got "that little piece of paper"). So, the way we looked at it - we were commited to being together forever, to sharing the highs and lows of both our lives... why not get the benefits of having it recognised by the state? :D

There is something yuk about pre-nups, isn't there? But should anyone attempt to be romantic in the face of business? I don't know. I suppose it makes sense where one partner heads a family business, or something? It's not necessarily about protecting yourself from gold-diggers.

Still... how cynical.

K said...

I feel the same way about my friends and their weddings--just thrilled for them.

Hope it's a fun one!

xo said...

I think you're so very interesting.

Dolly said...

Arrogantcow,
Of course there's nothing wrong with the big ceremony! I hope I didn't come across in a way where I was criticizing it; I merely meant that it's not for me. I think giant weddings can be a blast, as long as I'm not the one walking down the aisle. Everything else you wrote I utterly agree with.

K,
I can't imagine how seeing one of my dearest friends get wed couldn't be amazing.

Mildred,
Aw, how sweet are you!