Nervous nuptials

Why I hated planning my wedding

When a close friend of mine finished college, her parents presented her with a double-wide and a plot at a local trailer park. She was stumped.

“Your sister already got married, sweetheart,” they explained. “And since it looks like you probably never will, we spent your bridal fund on this.”

My friend eventually tied the knot anyway, just not when her family thought she should. By then, it was on her own terms.

“Planning a wedding is the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” another happily married friend once told me. As she spoke, Katie soothed one of her crying newborn twins, fed the other baby and simultaneously prepared for her graveyard shift at a bakery. She shook her head. “The hardest thing, girl.”

I know two couples who’ve lost rings at the altar, and another guy whose aunt sincerely threatened suicide when she wasn’t invited to his ceremony. True story. More recently, I saw a hung-over groomsman pass out and hit the ground during his brother’s vows at Lake Tahoe. His poor legs swung straight up, and his dress shoes pawed at the air like something from a cartoon.

“He does this a lot,” his father told me later, looking wholly unconcerned. “It’s just a big day for him.”

Anyway, when my live-in boyfriend mentioned marriage in a faraway sense, I said to forget about proposing if it meant we’d have a big wedding. We could elope like my mom and stepdad did or live in committed sin. Wasn’t that enough?

Matt looked dejected. He’d always envisioned a glitzy celebration with everyone he loved. That same summer, he asked me to marry him. I saw it coming and of course said yes, but was so taken aback by the gravity of it all that I basically checked out.

The ring was stunning enough to wrack me with guilt. My head hurt like the dickens. I forgot how to properly kiss another human being. I wondered if we were, in fact, having a magical moment. Then we called our parents, half of whom were actively mad because I’d already referred to Matt as my fiancé in an article. (It made sense at the time.) I was freaking out.

“Everything’ll be OK,” Matt told me, and everything would be, save for the fact that we had a wedding to plan.

An important aside: My husband is the kindest and most hilarious best friend I could ever imagine, and I’m actually excited every time I see his car in the driveway after work. He’s the happiest part of my whole world. But organizing our nuptials sucked. Bad.

Going to the chapel of Mexican food

My vote was that we elope right here in Reno, at Silver Bells, but that went over like a lead balloon. Our semi-compromise was a tiny, formal wedding in my hometown of Austin, Texas, followed by a larger reception a couple of days later.

We skipped the following traditions:

1. The wedding party. We couldn’t rank our friends, and the ceremony was for immediate family anyway.

2. The expensive dress—mine was $100 at Marchele's on South Virginia Street. Elaborate flowers—we spent $300 at Trader Joe's. Formal invitations—Matt's mom made beautiful ones. Pricey liquor—kegs and bad wine worked fine.

3. The raunchy bachelor party, the registry, the planned dances and so on. The old standbys could go, Matt promised, provided the reception was large and inclusive.

It was settled. We'd marry, then have a laidback party with Tex-Mex fare, piñatas, great music, and everyone we knew. It'd all happen at the same venue: a sprawling, verdant place where multiple families could stay for days, drink to excess and break sound ordinances long into the night.

This all seemed swell on paper, but I was still unnerved by the fact that it had morphed into a more drawn-out affair than the white wedding I'd managed to avoid. Plus, my generous in-laws had contributed a lot financially for an event they saw as a bare-minimum rite of passage—on par with a funeral, say—so my parents felt obliged to follow suit, despite their modest savings and the fact that I'd sworn for years this would never happen. All told, our “casual” gig was costing tens of thousands of dollars. And no one was exactly bonding.

Then Matt, a brand-new attending surgeon, got too busy to really help. It wasn't his fault, but it meant that between the two of us, there were exactly zero enthusiastic people calling vendors.

I have to wonder what his poor parents were thinking: Who does this little hick think she is? Doesn't she love our boy? Do her own parents even like her?

I wish we'd just told everyone I'm absurdly frightened of big events. But Matt would've been heartbroken by a small one, so we were doing our best. Nobody wants to think their child is a jerk, or that he or she is engaged to one, but if you don't present a united front, well, things can look pretty bad.

The final countdown

“Gay people can’t even have weddings,” I hissed at Matt one evening, “and they love each other just as much as we do. Probably more, if one of them doesn’t make the other do pointless crap for nostalgia’s sake.”

He pleaded with me to compromise. After all, isn’t that what marriage is about?

My phone rang. It was our bimbo caterer. Then Matt’s phone went off. Whoever it was, they were worried about something wedding-y. Our mothers seemed wounded lately, too.

Later that night I’d call my dear friend Emily, who’s always treated me like a sister, and apologize for not having her in our little ceremony. (I’d been the only non-relative in hers.) She didn’t say much, but was clearly hurt. Katie seemed to be as well, which is so odd for either of them—so unsettling really—that things felt truly precarious.

All told, that sort of night played out a million times. Sometimes the immediate families or old friends were the upset ones. More often, it was Matt or me.

Finally, when I learned of a forthcoming bachelor party he’d been privately planning for weeks, I came unglued. My mom heard about it from his mom. It’d be the day before the wedding, and everyone knew but me.

“I was waiting for the right time to talk,” he said, looking exhausted.

“Do you realize how bad this looks?” I shot back. “Why the hell was it a secret?”

Matt canceled the party. In hindsight, I think his night out probably should’ve happened, seeing as my mate just needed to escape the chimera who shared his bed and was basically setting fire to every notion of comfort and sentimentality he had. It was around that time that I made a medical appointment.

“I agree that Xanax isn’t a bad idea,” my doctor said dryly, after catching an earful. “Temporarily, anyway. How long do you think you’ll need this?”

“Just the day of the ceremony and that of the reception. And maybe right now.” He wrote a script for three months’ worth.

Later, mere weeks before walking down the aisle, I called a friend who’s an event planner. Megan has stellar taste; we knew that much. What we didn’t expect was how deftly she’d finish the job for us. For $1,000, she became a balm for our souls, giving our caterers the what-for, drawing seating diagrams and pulling countless moving parts into a chic finished product. She held our hands until the end.

And in the end? Well, the ceremony was exquisite, and the reception was all we’d hoped for. Seriously.

“Georgia,” Megan told me gently before guests arrived, “You need to take a shower. Now. Do it.”

I did. And I do. And believe it or not, I love being married.