Planning a wedding was never something that I longed to do. I fantasised about sitting on a bench in the sun with someone I loved, listening to Desert Island Discs in bed together, and the slow and rewarding process of learning to love another human – year, after year, after year. I never considered that deciding between four different shades of confetti or colour coding 131 names on a Google spreadsheet might be part of the picture.
So perhaps that’s why, initially, I approached wedding planning a bit like an eight-year-old who’s been taken to the supermarket and drags her heels the whole way round. You know the term ‘bridezilla’? Well, I was at the other end of the scale… more of a ‘bridechilla’.
In fact, I would go as far as saying I felt cynical about the whole day. We only had six months to plan our wedding and I wasted two of them on my cynicism. I decided not to have bridesmaids because I thought my friends, many of whom now have kids, would find it too much of a hassle. I put off looking for venues in the Sussex village where I grew up, until all of them were booked or unavailable.
By the time I went for a dress appointment, alone – because I thought, why make a fuss of the dress anyway? – the woman in the shop told me that it was too late to order in the style that I wanted, even with a £500 ‘rush fee’.
Worse still, afterwards, my dad texted to say my mum was heartbroken that I hadn’t invited her to the appointment, as she’d dreamed of going wedding-dress shopping with her daughter for decades. I’d upset the woman I loved the most for the sake of being nonchalant and had been so busy pretending to be ‘cool’ about the wedding, that I’d forgotten to find any joy in the journey. I cried on the bus ride home.
After that day, something shifted. I started reading a book by Stone Fox Bride founder Molly Guy and found a line that really resonated with me:
Instead of seeing our wedding as a pricey invitation to obsess for months about the things that don’t really matter, I started to see it as an opportunity to celebrate what love means to my partner and me, in front of the people who have helped us to create it.
What does love look like to Dan and me? Not a half-hearted story of two people playing it cool. To us, love is going all in. It’s about paying attention to the beauty in life’s simplest moments – my mum’s optimism in ordering 180 feet of white bunting, even though it might rain; Dan’s mum’s patience while practising the sponge tiers of our wedding cake.
Our love is built not on one story, but on many tiny different love stories between siblings and parents and school friends who held our hands through the heartbreak and highs of adolescence.
I’ve heard a lot of people say, ‘a wedding really isn’t about you’, but I think it’s more valuable to remember that, as therapist Esther Perel says, ‘a relationship is an ecosystem’. It always involves more than two people, which is why a wedding should, too.
The funny thing is, the more I let people in, the more joy I found in every milestone: together, through her tears and my laughter, my mum and I discovered my dream dress from Laudae, in a friendly Dalston boutique called Heart Aflutter. And when I invited my oldest school friend to read a poem and walk up the aisle, her excitement made me more excited, too (she then offered to sleep over the night before the wedding and watch Sex And The City reruns together, just like we did as teenagers).
And now that I’ve decided to get married in my parents’ garden, I couldn’t think of a more perfect place in the world to say ‘I do.’
Ultimately, I think that, like a lot of other women, I initially felt resentful towards wedding planning because it can be a struggle to find the balance between caring too much and caring enough.
I think the answer is to tackle wedding planning as you might approach the marriage itself: with patience, optimism, pragmatism and, yes, a delicious dollop of romance.
Don’t hide your insecurity in cynicism. Instead, take this opportunity to be as hopeful and romantic as you want to be. Have the courage to be vulnerable and to depend on others. And, most importantly, let all the different forms of love into your lives along the way.
All of this is to say that the poet Mary Oliver was right: ‘Joy is not made to be
a crumb.’ OK, I might not be going full on Charlotte York just yet, and I still haven’t found or bought my shoes. But I do plan on making our wedding a feast of joy, with Van Morrison songs that sound like true love and a speech that tells everyone in
my life just how much they mean to me.
Yesterday, I even looked at four different shades of confetti and chose one called ‘Summer Nights’ by Shropshire Petals. I can’t wait to see it thrown in the air by our friends and family on our wedding day, scattering in the sky, and reminding me what true love looks like to us.
Natasha Lunn is the founder of Conversations on Love, a biweekly newsletter investigating love