When Hilary Swank wore her Navy Blue 2005 Oscar dress, the year she won best actress for Million Dollar Baby, I thought “I want to wear a dress like that one day”. Over the years, a few times it passed my head that that’s what my wedding dress might be like that (sorry, but no other Oscar dress did it for me). Other than that, I never really thought about my wedding. I’m aware that sounds like an apathetic cool girl thing to say, “Oh I don’t even care about my wedding, as long as it’s to the person I love with the people I love”. But really, I didn’t have any idea about any wedding thing I wanted or what I even liked or disliked.
What I did know, was that my fiancé was the one from the first day I met him. Knowing that, I just sort of trusted things would fall into place when they were ready. However, the idea of planning a wedding, calling someone my husband, figuring out what flowers to get, all of that overwhelmed me more than excited me. When Christian proposed near a snowy lake as the sun went down on a freezing December day in Montana, I knew what I had felt for the near six years we’d been together was true and I cried as I said yes. We decided quickly that, why wait? Screw the many free wedding planner guides I downloaded off of Pinterest that allotted a year and a half prep time, we’d be married in eight months!
As the wedding planning started, I realized that I did have stronger opinions than I thought in some areas (don’t put any burlap or mason jars within 6 feet of me) and much looser opinions in others (I don’t care one bit about what the flowers look like as long as I get lilies in my bouquet to match my name) and yes, the process overwhelmed me more than excited me. Due to my busy work schedule which included but wasn’t limited to leaving on a book tour, teaching at a University, and working on my next books, we knew it would be a challenge to make happen. Christian and I tried to work like an efficient team with my parents to get all the big things for our small Colorado mountain wedding scheduled and booked within a month before I left on tour. There were some straggler details of course here and there that we were waiting to tackle until my travel schedule calmed down a bit, but that schedule ended up coming to a screeching halt due to the Corona Virus.
We started waiting it out like everyone else, staying in and doing our part while just figuring out what to do as time passed. “No decisions until end of April” we told my Yiayia over and over on the phone when she asked if we knew what was happening with the wedding. Then the end of April came and passed. “No decisions until first week of June” we then agreed with my parents on the phone. The straggling details of music and if my elderly childhood priest would be able to travel to Colorado from California were still hanging in the balance. But as May warmed and news of August weddings being cancelled poured in, it became obvious we needed to make a decision fast if we wanted to keep the same vendors next year when two years worth of weddings are going to happen in one summer. After much discussion and a lot of crying on my part, on May 20th Christian and I called our parents to tell them our thoughts. We felt we needed to postpone, and soon. The next day my mom was on the phone and she switched everything to next summer. Same wedding, next summer.
So why do I feel so heavy?
The thing is, I still feel the same way I’ve always felt: how and when I get married doesn’t matter too much as long as I’m marrying the one I love surrounded by the people I love. And maybe we’ll elope at the courthouse beforehand just because being together is what really matters to us. However, the uncertainty and unpredictability of this global pandemic is scary on a primal level. As we close in on 160,000 deaths in the US in three months (more than the amount of Americans who died in WWI), what does the future hold for us as a country? What does the future hold for my family? My mom finished chemo and radiation and her cancer treatments this summer and is immunocompromised, my elderly grandparents are dear to me and not being able to hug my Yiayia is killing me… so if these people are the most important parts of my wedding, I can’t help but wonder will all my loved ones be there next year? Will we be there?
I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’m grieving. It sounds dramatic, and I would’ve judged myself hard if you’d told me this years ago. But I’m mourning the loss of what I envisioned my wedding to be, and what I had put in so much work planning for it to be. I’m grieving for our small wedding full of all my family and friends in health and happiness celebrating love with not a care in the world besides worrying about sea-level family members consuming alcohol at a high altitude. I’m grieving for that sense of total freedom we’d have to hug each other and share stories and sit with heads on each others shoulders and embrace each other as happy tears are shed. These things make life normal because they are so intrinsically human. So many brides right now aren’t just having to deal with wedding problems like their wedding not matching their ideal vision, or the florist not being able to transfer dates… it’s the first dances that will be lost, or the hugs that won’t be had, and the seats that will remain empty.
Next year, we won’t be the same. We all will have gone through something truly transformative and experienced loss on personal levels, as well as, mass scale as a country. We already have and with the leadership we have in the Senate and White house, it will only continue to get worse without proper testing, and with the opening of states without actually knowing what’s happening. So what does that mean for us who are so worried that our grandparents, parents, friends, and family won’t be able to be there with us to celebrate?
I have no idea where we’ll be next year. I don’t know who will be president. I know we’re lucky because we have a date, the vendors we wanted, and my dress is beautiful (thank you Emma & Grace Bridal) and it does indeed look a bit like Hilary Swank’s 2005 Oscar dress. However, I don’t know who will be in attendance at my wedding. So while I still remain an unfussy bride, I’m grieving for a changing world whose normal I have no way to predict.
P.S. We made it legal and had a small Colorado courthouse elopement with parents and siblings present. :)