I'm reading an awesome book right now called Finding Your Own North Star: Claiming the Life You Were Meant to Live. It's all about the difference between our authentic, essential selves which represent our deepest values/preferences/interests/passions and our social selves which internalize pressure from society, our families, our friends, etc. about what we're supposed to do and who we're supposed to be. If we align our choices too much with our social selves, we end up unhappy and disconnected from true contentment. The book is all about paying attention to signs from our minds and bodies in order to identify our most essential selves, so that we can align our lives with our most authentic path and find pure joy.
I have so many examples from my own life that illustrate the tension between my essential and social selves. For example, after graduating from college with a B.A. in American Studies, I didn't have any job prospects (although I was thankful that my major aligned with my authentic self--I picked it by going through the course catalog and circling all the classes I wanted to take; I counted them up and majored in the area that had the most interesting classes).
My social self told me that I had to have a plan. I had to make something of myself. So I sold my car and moved to Boston. I found a roommate on the internet and figured I could more easily find a job if I lived there. My social self was convinced that Boston was the intellectual and cultural Mecca of the United States.
Boy, did my essential self fight that one! Within three days of moving to Boston I was in the emergency room at the hospital after fainting (I had a urinary tract infection). I'm convinced that my body was telling me that I wasn't in the right place. I sucked up my pride and moved back home for a year. I found work as an AmeriCorps volunteer and had one of the best years of my life.
I have other examples of times when I listened to my essential self (like when I took a year off and traveled) and times when I'm not sure that I did (like when I joined Teach For America). I'm still processing where I am versus where my essential self thinks I should be. I definitely have more work to do in this area.
But I am wholeheartedly convinced that our weddings are a time to analyze our "essential" versus "social" selves very carefully. How we plan our weddings matter. They set precedents for the kind of family we create. And there's nothing like planning a wedding to highlight the difference between what you want versus what your family/friends/society say you should want.
Following your authentic path is not easy. You may face real opposition from family and friends ("You can't do that! How tacky!"). But you may also face internal opposition from your social self (which has been soaking up expectations from everything around you for your entire life). Plus, I have to throw in the possibility that your idea of the most authentic wedding for you might differ from your partner's version.
But there is no better time to sift out the differences between your essential and social self and follow your authentic path. Finding and following our authentic paths makes us want to wake up in the morning. It brings smiles to our faces. It inspires joy throughout every corner of our lives. Honestly, do we have any other choice but to honor ourselves by being authentic?