Before The Wedding: Why Didn’t I Feel Like A Bride?

The first thing I did after telling everyone I was engaged to the Fella was go buy a copy of The Knot: Chicago magazine. I was thrilled to finally get a chance to delve into the frilly, glittery world of wedding planning, eager to feel special and pampered and indulgent for a change. Since I had never really fantasized about a wedding as a little girl, now was finally the time, and I was ready to begin building my dream day.

By the end of the magazine, I was sick to my stomach with how brutally expensive everything was, and how horribly daunting the entire task seemed. Venue? Catering? Flowers? How the heck does anyone manage it all? No wonder people hire wedding planners. It’s a nightmare. But for me, the nightmare was more about how to afford even the bare minimum of what a wedding apparently required.

“There’s no way,” I kept thinking to myself in growing horror. “We’ll never be able to afford any of this. I should just wear a dress I already own, and we’ll potluck the food, and have it in someone’s backyard.”

But alas – as many brides will attest, sometimes having the actual wedding is not just for yourself and your spouse-to-be, but it’s also for your families and friends. It’s your day, but it’s also their day to share with you. It’s a confusing concept, to be honest. But with recent health issues in both sets of parents, siblings spread out across the country, and possible new jobs that would require us to move within the next year, this occasion would be an important event for everyone in the family to come together, meet, and celebrate.

You may recall my previous post on this feeling of dread and discombobulation, Things I Have Had Small Panic Attacks About While Planning My Wedding: A Non-Comprehensive List. It was an important moment for me to discover that underlying all of the good, the bad, and the stressful things in the wedding planning process was the slow burn realization that I just didn’t feel like a bride.

“What does that even mean?” I asked myself. “What is a bride supposed to feel like?”

Good question…

For me, the immediate gut instinct was that a bride should feel loved and lovely, a bride should feel special, like she’s suddenly been made a temporary princess of a foreign land, and everything falls at her feet in delight and adoration. The romance of her romance has been replaced with a kind of romance of the self, wherein she treats herself (or is treated to) fancy food, fancy clothes, fancy pampering time with her favorite lady friends, fancy flowers, fancy desserts, and a fancy place to pretend that she is queen for a day.

What ‘being a bride’ was feeling like for me was a lot more like cramming for finals week in college, plus mind-bending financial insecurity, social stress, panic attacks, and such constant twists and turns that even make Six Flags feel nauseated.

In late October I had an emergency tooth extraction. It was abcessed, and in a span of 24 hours went from being totally fine to completely paralyzingly painful, and it had to come out. I had it taken out, and spent the next few weeks sore and on medication for the infection that had gotten into it. If there’s anything that makes you feel super not pretty – it’s having gauze stuffed into your mouth-hole, which won’t stop bleeding, and everything tastes like blood all the time. It began to heal finally and the bleeding stopped, and I went in to my dentist on the morning of my bachelorette tea party to have them give me the run-down of what an implant process would be like to replace it.

“Oh no,” the dentist said, peering into my mouth to check on the site of the extraction. “This isn’t healing right. The x-ray looks like there’s still some root in there, and the infection is still there. I’ve got to get this out for you.”

So they numbed me, and worked on it, and got the root out as well as a lot of infected tissue, and I spent the day of my bachelorette with gauze and blood in my mouth. My beautiful, lovely friends and family who attended the tea party were so kind and understanding. Everyone was encouraging and gentle and loving, and it was so nice to spend time with them in fancy hats having fancy tea at Russian Tea Time downtown.

But everything tasted of blood. It was pretty gross, and it was absolutely nobody’s fault. It was just bad timing.

Do brides have tooth problems just like normal non-bride humans?!

At this point I started to feel genuine concern for my state of mind. Why didn’t I feel like a bride? Why didn’t I feel lovely and effervescent and incandescently happy all the time? I felt that way in the Fella’s arms, or when he looked at me with that smile. But if we were apart, I went back to being this mold-growing, warped, sagging mess of panic and loathing. I felt some very dramatic things during this time, things which are ridiculous now, but felt like legitimate options then – such as lying down in a crosswalk and waiting for a car to hit me.

I’m really glad I didn’t do that, of course.

I kept telling myself: “Things will get better.”

Things did. It’s strange how sometimes that works out.

The love and care and amazing generosity of my incredible Maid of Honor (my cosmic lifemate since preschool), my mother, my best friends and bridesmaids was unbelievably soothing during this process. Anytime I got emotional or stressed, someone was there to help me ease through it. Even when my mouth was bleeding, my friends and majestic lady-heroes were on hand to tell me how happy they were for me, and how things would absolutely without a doubt be just fine. And they were right.

I don’t know why I felt so unbridelike for so long. Maybe it would have been lessened by a longer engagement, with more money to spend and less problems scheduling and organizing. But I did what I had to in order to get everything done, and that’s the best I could do.

My experience as a bride-to-be was not ivory tulle and champagne bubbles and sweet tea cakes and happy music. My time leading up to the wedding was shadowed, twisted as any labyrinth with no map to guide me, and full of self-doubt and financial terror.

But when I got to the end, I was wearing the most beautiful dress I had ever imagined, and my Fella was there wearing an incredibly handsome suit, and there it all was: the ivory tulle and the twinkle lights and tea cups and books and joyful music. Suddenly, it was all okay. I don’t know how, but it was. Maybe that’s the magic of it all?

The thing I’m getting at here is this: I did not expect to have such drastic emotional responses to the process of planning a wedding. They just happened. And that’s okay. It didn’t mean there was anything wrong with me, and if you or someone you know experiences this kind of feelings-coaster of doom before the Big Day, that’s okay. Because the love of your loved ones and the love of your future spouse is really the most important thing. The rest is optional. There’s nothing wrong with the feelings that surprise you before a big event – they are just feelings, and they’re completely okay to feel. It doesn’t mean everything is broken.

I don’t mean for any of this to sound ungrateful – if anything, I am more grateful for all of the organization, hospitality, thoughtfulness and love shown me during the pre-wedding process. And you know what? All of my strange self-loathing and confusion melted the day of the wedding when our families gathered for breakfast. It just… disappeared. Everything was set to rights again, and I felt so loved and so humbled and so radiantly happy to be surrounded by friends and family.

I will never forget how beautiful it all was, or how it made me feel that I was the most beautiful bride that ever lived.

That’s the secret, I think. Sometimes you don’t feel like a bride until you actually are one.

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