Those little girls who slip into mom's high heels and tie a white T-shirt around their head to "play wedding?" I was definitely not one of them.
Even as a 5-year-old, I couldn't quite wrap my head around the idea of forever, even with an imaginary husband. Instead, I preferred playing soccer or tearing through the neighborhood on my skateboard.
I didn't grow up into one of those women who buys stacks of bridal magazines, either. Didn't start planning the big day long before I had even met a potential spouse. Didn't even know what a bustle was until I was in a friend's wedding a few years ago. That was when I tripped over a power cord and knocked out an entire row of Japanese lanterns just as guests swarmed into the reception.
All of which is to say that, while I have a healthy respect for weddings, I've never viewed them with the exultation they receive in ever-more-disturbing levels these days, on shows like Say Yes to the Dress and Four Weddings. When my then-boyfriend, Chris, popped the question last July, I knew it wouldn't be long before I was thrust full-force into the glare of the wedding spotlight. The bling that felt so alien on my ring finger was a constant reminder that I would soon be a bride -- and, like it or not, I'd be facing all the headaches, hassles and stressors I'd always happily watched from the sidelines.
But, I figured, how hard could it be? Especially for someone who never bought into all the hype in the first place?
You just pick a place, buy a dress, choose some food, say your vows and start celebrating, right?
Welcome to one of the strangest and most eye-opening experiences of my life. No matter how aggressively I resisted getting sucked into the vortex of the modern wedding industry, there was really no way to avoid it.
I used to sneer at those Bridezilla types who screeched, complained and nagged their way through the process. After a few months and a few miles in their pumps, I've discovered new reserves of sympathy for these put-upon ladies.
Devil in the details
Things started out well enough, even with my early foot-dragging (we didn't begin planning in earnest until last December). We decided on a May wedding on Florida's Emerald Coast, where I grew up. We scouted out a charming B&B just a short walk from the beach, where the ceremony would take place. Despite my history of wedding agnosticism, I started to get the teensiest bit excited.
But nailing down a date presented a headache I'd never anticipated. Prices for hotels and house rentals jumped with the high season opening in late May. My cousin, to whom I'm quite close, had already begged me not to have the wedding on a weekend. Add to that the college finals schedule for Chris' nephew, whom we wanted to be in the wedding party; my brother's impending deployment; and the B&B owner reminding us that her calendar was "filling up fast." I could already feel the gray hairs sprouting.
After we settled on May 8 (my cousin was disappointed but understood), we moved on to the next hurdle: the invitations.
Pricing them out, I decided I'd rather save my hard-earned dough for a down payment on a new car than custom-designed, embossed invites that -- although quite snazzy -- people would just toss out (or recycle, we hope).
So my mom came up for a weekend, and we spent hours printing and tying ribbons to my DIY cards that read "Eat, Drink & Be Married" on the front and provided all the necessary 411 on the inside. (We scrapped the stamped RSVP cards -- another $70 in postage, and people don't even bother to mail them anyway -- and opted for a website instead.)
Once the invites were mailed, Chris and I focused on the rest of the major components.
Hiring a caterer and DJ were fairly simple, but my mind soon began to spin with the mind-boggling array of details involved in planning any event for 100-plus people. We had decided that hiring a wedding planner would be too expensive, but suddenly I was having second thoughts. Because who was going to answer all these questions: How will the chairs get from the beach to the reception area? What type of fish holds up best in a buffet? Will the weather be cool enough so that the cake icing won't slide off like lava? Um, when can I have a drink?
Even for the most laid-back of brides -- which, sadly, I know now that I'm not -- the sheer volume of logistics is enough to make you want to hang yourself with a giant bow of tulle. In the midst of all the wedding chaos, my ever-calm fiancé and I were sitting on the couch one night working through some details I can't now recall, and he looked at me and said, "Babe, you were right -- maybe we should have eloped."
I had to restrain myself from leaping onto the couch like Tom Cruise and shouting, "HA! I TOLD you so!"
When you get married, it's not as if the rest of your life is put on pause so you can look at flower arrangements and taste cakes.
Between my real work and my wedding work, nerves were getting stretched perilously thin. A few times, I just snapped.
Like when my printer started to sound like oyster shells had fallen into its gears halfway through cranking out the invites.
Or when I yelled at my dad while he was trying to help me with a PowerPoint presentation I had to give for a 200-person event.
Or the times I've tearfully -- and unfairly -- blamed Chris for not doing more to help.
Yet if my behavior over the past five months falls into the Bridezilla category, then so be it.
Like passing shoppers sharing a knowing look with another parent whose kid is screaming in the cereal aisle, I'm a lot less judgmental of stressed-out brides having experienced the planning process myself. I mean, as I was blow-drying my hair last week after a shower, I realized that there was a reason it felt like straw: I'd forgotten to wash it.
The whole ordeal has also given me a lesson that's applicable to life beyond wedding madness: the importance of perspective. It's the one thing I'd advise anybody who's either planning a wedding or attending one as the high season heats up. No matter how dire the situation seems, it's not.
One particularly poignant case in point: When I called Chris to gripe about something else I can't even remember, he quietly informed me that a good friend's wife was just diagnosed with breast cancer. News like that will make you want to put your head in the microwave for bitching about an obviously insignificant wedding detail.
Same goes for the oil spill (thanks, BP) that I briefly feared would coat the sugar-white shores of Florida's Emerald Coast, possibly ruining the normally gorgeous backdrop for our beach ceremony. But what about all the ruined wildlife, ecosystems and livelihoods also at stake in the path of this disaster? Kinda makes my wedding photos and limited sunbathing for my guests seem insignificant.
Finally, this whole process has provided me a more personal realization. Perhaps my surname (Bachelor) is to blame, but I know that at the heart of some of my meltdowns is anxiety about the idea of getting married forever. (I had to try on wedding gowns for the first time with a nice buzz just to get over myself, for Pete's sake.) My occasional cold feet have permanently warmed, though, and, as I write this, just a week before the Big Day, it's almost a comfort knowing that the nerves I'm feeling are directly related to the mountain of crap I still have to do, and not the leap I'm about to take.
After all, I'm taking it with a gem of a guy, with our loved ones there to celebrate our happiness. And that's something that a botched seating arrangement, the most annoying of guests and even a colossal oil spill can't change.
Editor's note: Blane Bachelor's marriage came off without a hitch May 8, and she's presently on an extended honeymoon.