(10 minute read)
Who am I to offer advice around weddings? I was MoB when our daughter got married in May, I am the MoG when our son gets married next October*, and we have been guests at three weddings recently. If that is not enough, I would also add that we just celebrated 34 years of marriage. For anyone planning or invited to weddings, you will find my Five Wedding Tips at the end of this blog post.
“Love is a verb.”
Kevin sat next to me in the pew as we heard that short phrase spoken. It resonated with us because we know well the action involved in loving. He squeezed my hand as we watched the young bride and groom vowed to love one another for the rest of their lives. 34 years ago at 22 years old I stood eye-to-eye with Kevin and we made the same promise. Being present at four different weddings this year, I can see a similar thread through all of the nuptials.
It starts with building the foundation of the relationship which at some point leads to a proposal. Couples these days seem to give that more time than we ever did. We got engaged the summer after I graduated from college. In these four weddings of 2022 the bride and groom dated for years and some even lived together (less common in 1988). Following the exciting proposal and celebration of such proposal is the engagement. For the wedding guest, as the aunt or friend of the bride or groom’s parents, the date is looked forward to and marked on the calendar. For the parents of the bride (or groom) it is a whole different story.
For several weeks (ok maybe it was just days) we all just basked in the glow of our daughter’s engagement. She and her fiancé were in no rush to jump into planning. Once the ball got rolling it was one decision after another, so many lovely simple or extravagant details to consider. As Mother of the Bride (of our only daughter) I treasured the journey we were on together. I say “we” because the ceremony and celebration of their nuptials was truly all about what the bride and groom wanted. They had clear visions of what was important to include in their day. We simply supported and chimed in with ideas (as the hosts of this special day). I look back to our July 16, 1988 wedding as one of the best days of our lives: so much love and fun surrounded by family and friends. That is what we wanted for our daughter and son-in-law.
It would be wrong to not fully disclose that there were stressful moments in the planning stage. Everyone deals with budget concerns, disagreements about little details, and just wedding discussion overload. In our journey we came up with the phrase, “open the box.” It referred to if it was okay to start a wedding topic of conversation; “Kevin, I know you’re watching a football game right now, can I open the box for a moment?” Or after thoroughly going over the timeline (for the umpteenth time), “Carolyn, do you think we could close the box?” I think my daughter had to close the box on me a number of times. But it was so exciting, so many ideas on Pinterest, lots of tiny decisions, and so much anticipation building up to the big day!
What hit me multiple times in that planning stage were the moments when I would see my daughter and her soon-to-be husband so lovingly consider each other’s needs and wishes. Each time I was present for one of these eye-to-eye exchanges I was more confident in how much they loved one another. At these weddings, one of the key elements of the celebrations was who was present: Family members from both sides, friends of the bride and groom and friends of the parents. I remember when we were drawing up the guest list a year ago. We had as many of our dear friends (from long ago and more recent) as our daughter and her fiancé had. We wanted to share this big milestone and special day with all of our people, or at least extend the invitation to them. Post Covid I think people missed being present (and a good party) so we received many more “yes” responses than expected, and quite a few of those would be making the trek across the country to be here. It felt amazing to have friends and family in Virginia, so far from where we started (in California). Not forgetting how meaningful it was, Kevin and I both agreed that when invited to a wedding we would make every effort to be present at their special day. Even if it included traveling to California, Texas, and Manquin, Virginia. We were showing up.
I was nervous as my daughter’s wedding day got closer. Would I be able to hold my emotions together (I cry easily)? Will the pressure of hosting such a large group of people be hard for this introvert that I am (coming off of a socially distanced couple of years)? Will my daughter have the wedding day she has dreamt about and will treasure for her lifetime (like I did)? Then there were the more pressing logistical concerns: Will everyone be able to find a seat at this “stations” wedding (that I kept insisting needed seating for all guests)? Do we have enough room on the shuttle buses to the hotels? Will it rain? If it rains, did we give enough time to Plan B?
Yes, it rained and was a chilly 45 degrees outside in May. The garden poolside wedding ceremony changed to a lovely ballroom with seating and intimate in-front-of-the-fireplace reciting of the vows. The beautiful staircase lined with flowers and candles was meant to be. Nobody knew the garden plan existed. Their day was full of amazing moments we will all treasure. One of those was later in the evening when the newlyweds made their way up the staircase and paused for a moment, they looked back down at all of their friends and family on the dance floor who loudly cheered for them. “Unforgettable,” is how my daughter described the feeling. The sparkler exit under the clear starry night at the end of the party was a perfect beginning to their married life together.
The weddings we attended recently were as special as my daughter’s, and each was different from the other. Inside a church, in front of a pond, a twelve piece band, a DJ, a string quartet, LED blinking cowboy hats as favors, Jenga pieces for the guest book, a rotary telephone to leave messages for the newlyweds, a bald eagle soaring overhead, and even a fireworks display. My niece’s reception included a dance for all married guests, which gradually eliminated couples as the DJ announced number of years married. The first to go were the newlyweds. The crowd on the dance floor dwindled down to one cute pair celebrating over 50 years together (Kevin and I were one of the final four couples as our children cheered loudly watching). I loved being a guest where I could appreciate all those decisions that were made in the planning stages. The best part of each wedding was watching the bride and groom kick off their married life: the vows, the dancing, the toasts, and the joyful celebration with family and friends. It is wonderful sending them off to start experiencing what the one preacher said “love is a verb”. So go on, love each other!
FIVE WEDDING TIPS FROM THIS MAMA BEAR:
- SAY YES! If you get invited to a wedding then they want you there, so reply yes and go! Showing up means a lot. While you are there have a blast, sign the guestbook, and introduce yourself to other guests. You all mean something to the bride and groom’s families.
- ENJOY THE JOURNEY! When your son or daughter gets engaged, celebrate the happy couple, and take the time to bask in the glow before launching into planning mode. But do not wait too long, things tend to book out far in advance (but don’t stress). When you do “open the box” be sure to close it and live your life. Enjoy the planning journey, you’ll miss it after the wedding!
- BE FLEXIBLE! Give as much time for Plan B as you do Plan A. No amount of money can lock Mother Nature down for your desired weather. Things will happen, so just go with it.
- COMMUNICATE! Speak up for what is important to you during wedding planning. Whether you are the bride, the groom or a parent of the bride or groom, make sure you share what you hope for and envision for the wedding weekend. Nobody is a mind reader and you don’t want to say, “I wish we had…” after the fact.
- TAKE IT ALL IN! On the wedding day (or at any of the celebrations like showers or rehearsal dinner) be present. Take it all in. Step off to the side and breathe. Doing so will help you treasure all of the precious moments you won’t want to let slip by too quickly. (Spend the money on a good videographer to record it, and book them to stay to capture until the exit). You all worked hard to make this day happen, have fun! You will be sad when it’s over, but it is just the beginning of life with your expanded family!
*This MoG cannot wait for October 2023!