Wedding culture is a global industry. I guess I can understand why — weddings these days are beyond breathtaking. But the wedding obsession kind of baffles me.
I find it amazing that we regularly hear stories of women who’ve been dreaming of their perfect wedding since they were little girls. Their recall for those early thoughts is astounding. It’s not uncommon to hear of folks who aren’t even in relationships yet have planned out every detail for their big day. It makes me think of that episode of “Say Yes To The Dress” where the lady was looking for a dress before she and her boyfriend were even engaged. HUH?! I just don’t get it. I thought that whole thing was weird.
Many people spend their entire lives looking forward to saying “I do.” But I was never that girl. Call me weird, but I never thought about weddings as a child or even as a teen. My mom was single for nearly all of my life. As nonsensical as it sounded, being surrounded by single women left me pretty sure I’d never be married.
For most of my life, I didn’t think I’d ever have a quality partner, let alone one who could deal with my erratic behavior and dirty room long enough to want to marry me. Needless to say, when I found myself in love and in a long-term relationship, it shocked the hell out of me.
I was born and raised Southern, and for Southern women, marriage is often blasted as a testament to one’s value. If you don’t have a partner, surely it’s because something’s off about you. Because I was uninterested in a wedding, much less getting married, I thought I was born “broken.” So when my boyfriend of three years took me on a date and proposed to me on a pier, I was shocked as hell.
There was so much I didn’t understand about marriage and the engagement process. All I knew was that I didn’t want to be the center of attention and that we didn’t have the money for any of that fancy shit I saw on TV.
I would binge-watch SYTD for hours at a time. Not because I lusted after marriage but because the dresses were cute and I was amazed at the money people had to spend on weddings when I’d spent a considerable amount of my life struggling to eat. Treating oneself is great, but surely spending $50,000+ on a dress you’d wear once was an entirely different category. It was made worse by the number of folks who go on TV to go all out on these expensive weddings and get divorced in the next two or three years.
From the moment he put a ring on my finger, I felt immense pressure to compete with the fanfare I’d been seeing all over social media. And it wasn’t something I was interested in.
I wasn’t interested in dropping a stack on lavishness. And as far as I knew, when I unexpectedly found myself engaged, my soon-to-be-husband felt the same way.
Within days of being engaged, my loved ones started talking about different wedding-related ideas and how we could make this a huge party that everyone would enjoy. The idea made me uncomfortable. I’m not shy, but I prefer to limit my time as the center of attention. I didn’t care for the extravagance nor the cattiness I had seen on TV. And I’d be damned if I added another set of bills to my student loans.
About a month into our engagement, we started joking about eloping and having a courthouse wedding. Within 48 hours, I was convinced this was the best course of action.
We woke up at 5 a.m. for one last check-in and made a decision to be there before the courthouse opened. The only people who knew were the two people we asked to be witnesses.
I thought I’d solved all our problems with the suggestion. But it would be months before I realized that while a courthouse marriage was what I wanted, it wasn’t necessarily mutual.
I felt liberated by not having to go through the terror of wedding planning. It felt great not to have to talk wedding details with my aunts and cousins for the next year. But I’d been so worried about trying not to listen to my friends and family that I forgot to listen to my husband.
After a three-day honeymoon filled with stress, guilt, and singing the age-old musical classic “let it go,” I went home and told my family what happened.
I expected them to be frustrated, and they were. They felt left out and I wanted them to know it wasn’t about excluding them. It was about putting us first.
But I’d overlooked a key component of “us” when I failed to ask my guy if he would’ve preferred to have a wedding.
As it turned out, he’d had visions for his big day.
The more we talked about it, the clearer it became that though I saved money, I wasn’t any better than the folks who had the big dramatics weddings on my favorite wedding shows. We all put our feelings of the big day above what our partners expected, and that’s not a good foot to start a union on.
Everyone had opinions on why courthouse marriages were a mistake. But I think they’re misguided. I made a mistake. But it wasn’t where we got married or even how quickly.
It was the way I put myself first.
Getting married at the courthouse was a great and economical idea. Given the chance, I’d do it several times over. However, making so much effort to avoid society’s pressure that you silence your partner in the process wasn’t a good idea.
But what’s wild is, it took years for me to understand that, and equally as long for him to feel comfortable telling me what he wanted.
It’s been five years since our courthouse wedding. Since then, I’ve seen a number of social media posts perpetuating the belief that ceremony-based weddings are more special than courthouse ones. But I’m still not convinced.
There are plenty of folks who had extravagant weddings and haven’t lasted as long as we did. I’m glad we eloped at the courthouse. It was in our budget, and it makes a great story to tell.
But any issues we have related to that decision are because I didn’t take the time to check in and see what my soon-to-be husband wanted. Our courthouse ceremony taught me the importance of checking in with my partner before making tough decisions. I don’t plan to silence my partner to save money ever again.
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