I had a dream the other night that I married the wrong man.
I couldn’t tell you what he looked like, only that he was not the man I am actually marrying. His features weren’t clear to me. You know how sometimes you have dreams and you know there are people in them; you have a sense that there are people there, but they don’t really have faces, just…impressions? That was how this dream was.
I was walking down the aisle toward this man and there were a lot of people on either side of me–a guest list of one hundred or more. In my mind, I had this overwhelming sense of wanting to escape: that I wasn’t doing the right thing, that I was walking down the aisle to someone I wasn’t really sure I could spend the rest of my life with…but I kept walking.
When I woke up, I thought a lot about this dream. I didn’t (and don’t) see it as some sort of prophecy; I’m more than sure I want to marry the man I’m actually marrying. But it made me think about traditional weddings…and it made me even happier that we are eloping; just the two of us, hand in hand, starting our life together.
I am not a person who likes to be the center of attention. When I was a kid, I was in plays and I was in vocal performance for years and years, but as any actor will tell you: Performing on the stage is different, at least for me. You are playing someone else. When you sing, it’s not about you; you are a conduit through which the music flows.
But there is something so theatrical about a wedding. You get dressed up in costumes that you would never wear in your everyday life. You have supporting players (the bridesmaids and groomsmen). Hell, you even have a soundtrack. And right there with you is an audience! And you have lines!
The Burden of Expectation
When my fiancé was married the first time, he said a lot of the reason that it happened at all was out of a feeling of, “Well, we’ve been together long enough, we might as well”.
I think a lot of people get married for that reason, and I think that’s a lot of the reason marriages fail. Instead of really thinking about what you’re doing when you say “I do”, you’ve instead gotten caught up in the momentum: What other people are expecting of you. And I thought about that dream and how I kept walking even when I knew it wasn’t right, and it made me wonder how many people do that. There you are, questioning if you’re really doing the right thing and marrying the right person…and you’ve got someone with a grip on your arm walking you down the aisle. You’re surrounded by a hundred people expecting something of you. You’re surrounded by thousands of dollars worth of clothes and flowers and later, food and drink and decorations.
Even if every molecule of your being was screaming NO at that point…would you be able to walk away amidst all that pressure?
The point of me saying this is not to say that I want to elope so I can sneak out the backdoor without the judgment of others. More like…I want to be in the moment of my own choice, unfettered by the expectations of anyone but my husband and myself.
A Private Show
For me, the idea of putting on a dress and having a hundred people tell me how great I look makes me squirmy enough to puke. It’s not that I don’t know how to appreciate a compliment; it’s that so many eyes on me; watching me, seeing what I’ll do next, watching me move, watching me speak, as me, not as some character…that’s incredibly unnerving. In short, when I thought about the parts of a traditional wedding, it didn’t feel natural to me. I’m an introvert. That doesn’t mean I don’t like people or I’m antisocial, it just means I’m not particularly fond of being in a crowd with all eyes on me.
An Intimate Exchange
Moreover, I’m an extremely private person when it comes to matters of the heart. I’ll lay a kiss on Jim in the middle of a mall where a hundred people can see us, but when it comes to the things you say in a wedding ceremony…I found I wasn’t comfortable with that. It isn’t about not wanting to shout my love and devotion from the rooftops because I’m embarrassed; it’s about my belief that that moment when I give him all of myself and everything that’s in my heart, promising myself to him forever…how much more personal can you get?
And for us, when we’re having a personalized ceremony and vows, it’s extremely personal. To have a hundred people watching and listening is, to me, unnatural. There are things that you say to the person you’re in love with that are for their ears only, and for me, that is never more true than at your wedding.
We are having our wedding ceremony videotaped and played later at the reception we’re throwing for ourselves and our families when we get back from Scotland. Everyone is going to watch us and hear what we say to each other, but the difference is, when the real thing happens in real time, it’s just me to him. The energy of a hundred people is not going to be there, pulling at me, when I should be the most calm and at peace I’ve ever been in my life.
Choices in Solitude…All For You
When we first decided to elope, it occurred to me that I wouldn’t have anyone to help me into my dress. Traditionally, that’s something the mother of the bride and the bridesmaids do. When I thought of that, I felt a little bit sad. I thought about the sharing that goes on behind the scenes, and found that I didn’t have a problem with that kind of sharing…because it would have been with those nearest and dearest to me. I didn’t (and don’t) need anyone there with me, but there was a part of me that thought it would have been nice, just for this part of it.
And then I started thinking about it. For one, I’m not concerned about not being able to get into the dress myself, and I’m sure the woman who is doing my hair would be more than happy to assist me, or one of the staff at the castle. But the other thing was this: there is no burden of expectation. My feelings and thoughts before my wedding will be entirely focused on what I’m doing and who I’m doing it with; on my marriage, rather than on my wedding. Those thoughts and feelings won’t be distracted by anyone or anything.
I feel incredibly empowered to have the opportunity to sit there in my dressing room, in the quiet of my own thoughts, about to make the most important decision of my life thus far…all by myself. Truth is, I wasn’t raised to be a dependent thinker. I was raised to be independent and not base my decisions off the opinions of others. I don’t ask for or receive the bulk of my validation from anyone outside of myself…and I like it that way. So sitting there, in my dress, alone, and walking, alone, and not being given away…God, there is something so awesome about that for me. No one gives me but myself. No one is leading me. I am leading myself.
And when it comes to my hair, makeup, and dress…that is all for my husband-to-be. There will be the officiant, of course, and two people we will have never met before in our lives to be legal witnesses. But everything I do, wear, and say is completely for my husband. There is something so incredibly right and romantic about that for me that it gives me the chills. Who else should it be for?
Keeping Your Moment
My husband-to-be has been married before. Last night, when we were talking about how glad we are to be eloping, I asked him what he didn’t like about his first wedding (besides, in retrospect, who he married—haha!).
Jim told me about feeling stressed and pulled in a hundred different directions. He had 200 guests at his first wedding, many of whom he didn’t even know, and the bulk of the reception was spent being pulled to this person and that person and being introduced. He told me he felt like he didn’t really get to enjoy his wedding and that for most of the time after the actual ceremony, he just wanted to get the hell out of there. And then he said something that went a little bit like this:
“When I asked you, it was important to me to give you whatever you wanted to have for your wedding–big, small, whatever. But the truth is, after we got engaged, I really did just want to elope. I didn’t want to go through the stress and everything that went with the first wedding I had.”
In light of everything he said, I thought about how happy I was to not have to do the social circle after I had just avowed my life to him. There will we be, still glowing in that moment of love and unity, and we get to keep that. We won’t be pulled apart to meet this aunt or that coworker. We won’t have to talk to practically anyone except each other. Every moment of our wedding is ours, and every moment afterward is ours. In the years to come, we will do the usual balancing act of finding time for each other, for our kids, for work, and for our separate personal interests. But for our wedding, and the days of our honeymoon, we are all each other’s.
Holy shit, that’s awesome.
What It’s All About
I think there are a lot of people that feel that elopement is selfish because you’re not “sharing” it with your family. I guess that’s one way to look at it when you’re on the other side of the coin and you’re missing out on the show. But in reality, as much as I adore my family, the truth is, no; it came to a point, after a lot of thinking, and for all of the reasons I described in this post, that I didn’t want to share it with them the day of. To be honest, I don’t think anyone really thinks about this, and I’m not denying the fact that I have unusual ways of thinking about things…but when did weddings become all about everyone you know?
The point in all of this is that it wasn’t about excluding people out of dislike or anything like that. It’s about excluding people because that’s what’s right for the two of us. And that’s really what weddings are about: what’s right for the two of you. The decision to get engaged was yours, the decision to marry was yours, and the decision on how to do it–how you want your experience to be–is yours.
We are thrilled to be marrying each other in the way that is right for us, and sharing it in the way that is right for us. There is no Universal Right. I am thrilled for anyone who is pumped up for the guest list and the party and the communal vibe of the traditional wedding. Whatever gives you joy in one of the most important moments of your life is what you should do, and just because that wasn’t right for me doesn’t mean I’m pointing the finger at anyone else and thinking, “You’re doing it wrong”.
Weddings are a beautiful thing. Monogamy, to me, is sexy as hell to boot. Do what makes you happy. I know we are