Tying the Knot in a Meaningful and Memorable Way (Without Losing Our Savings or Sanity)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Postcard #3: Breaking "The Rules"

When I was a Women & Gender Studies minor in college, I learned about a whole host of societal rules that I wanted to break.

That's why I was completely and utterly shocked when I found myself in the midst of wedding planning, trying to follow all sorts of rules as closely as possible.

For example, I was desperately trying to figure out how to follow the "Thou shalt walk down the aisle" rule. Every wedding I had ever been to, ever watched on television, ever seen featured in a magazine, or ever dreamed about involved an aisle. And the formal music was supposed to play while everyone else stood up and I smiled blithely and walked toward my husband-to-be.

Unfortunately, I couldn't figure out how to manifest the vision. We got married outside, by a lake, while our guests were supposed to sit at picnic tables. There was no aisle through the picnic tables. Period.

I fretted about what I was supposed to do. I tried desperately to rent one of the cabins near the ceremony spot so I could hide in there until the big reveal. I thought about hiding behind a car. I thought about making everyone sit sideways on the benches so I could walk between them.

In other words, I spent an inordinate amount of time worried about how to conform to the way-a-wedding-is-supposed-to-be.

When I finally reached a proverbial wall, I realized, "Wait a second. I don't even want to walk down an aisle!"

Light bulb!

Of course lots of people want to walk down the aisle for various reasons, but I truly did not. I didn't want to be the sole center of attention. I didn't want to feel like everyone was attuned to every detail of my hair, dress, makeup. That's just me.

I finally came to my senses and realized, "I don't have to follow anyone else's rules. This is our wedding. Our celebration. Our commitment. We can do it our way (even if people get a little freaked out)."

So, we did the only thing that made sense for us as couple: We pulled up to the ceremony site in my Toyota Scion xA (I was driving) and got out. We walked toward the crowd that had started to gather and simply started talking to people. Easy peasy.

I immediately saw one of my long-time friends who had not been able to arrive in time for the Welcome Picnic the day before. When I saw him, I was ecstatic. That hug felt so good. I also chatted more with my family members, explained my dress to folks who asked, and even engaged in a heartfelt conversation with one of my grandfathers about the importance of the jewelry he had donated to the creation of our rings.

If I had been inside, waiting for everyone to arrive and settle in, I probably would have been a ball of nerves. I would have been dreading that walk down the aisle. Instead, I was just hanging out with my friends, laughing, talking, hugging.

When it was time to start, we pressed play on our iPod, and everyone in the wedding party made their way to the front. When we were there, someone stopped the music and the ceremony started.

Don't get me wrong: I'm not criticizing those of you who are going to walk down the aisle (or have already done so). I imagine there are all sorts of reasons why it's a desirable option. I imagine that it can provide an intense moment of quiet intention. It can be reflective. It can be incredibly meaningful for you and your family members.

It just wasn't what I wanted, and yet I was so concerned with what others thought I ought to have at my wedding that it took me a while to realize it. In fact, I may never have let myself realize it if our venue had had a veritable aisle.

My reason for writing this post is to challenge all of us to examine the rules that subtly govern every aspect of our lives. There are rules about how to talk and dress and show emotion and plan our weddings and raise children and the list keeps going.

Sometimes we choose to embrace the rules (I wanted a white dress, for example) and sometimes we have to intentionally step away from the rules to realize they don't make sense for us. And when we choose to step away, we should feel proud and courageous rather than insecure.

So here's to a proud and courageous life! (Whatever that looks like for you...)

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rosemeg said...

A friend suggested the other day that my guy and I flip gender roles and play the Pixies' Here Comes Your Man at the wedding, have my boyfriend dance down the aisle to me. Alas, I (somewhat surprisingly) want to go a more traditional route, but I thought the idea was adorable and wanted to share.

Of course, we don't have a venue yet, so maybe the aisle won't happen for us, either...

amy said...

Here Here to that!
We're not doing the progressional march down the isle either. We're walking together with our 2 dogs.

miss fancy pants (the bride) said...

Great advice. I think a lot of people planning weddings could use a reminder of that advice ever so often. I'm terrified about the walk down the aisle and while I would like to avoid it, it's more important to my/his family to see it than it is for me to avoid it. But I've done the same thing where I dread a certain traditional aspect of the wedding. I never wanted to do the garter toss, I find the concept of the Mr. sticking his hand up my dress in front of 80 people awkward. It took me months to realize, oh, right, I don't HAVE to do anything. So we (pardon the pun) tossed the idea out the window.

Anonymous said...

I did not do the aisle walk either. Instead, my groom and I ate hors d'ourvers and had drinks and chatted with our guests before the ceremony. It was a nice way to calm our nerves and say hello before things got serious. Plus it allowed us to get something to eat! When it was time for the ceremony, our officiant announced it and groom and I stood at the front of the room with him and our parents and it just started.

Carmen Wren said...

I definitely want some big entrance because I'm a drama queen, but I don't want to leave my sweety alone with everyone staring at him (he is not a drama queen). So that will be both traditional as well as non-traditional.

However there is now WAY I am wearing white on the day. It just doesn't look right with my complexion.

Love the ideas presented here though, thanks for this post. It's always good to be encouraged to think outside AND inside the box to search for what's meaningful.

Walking Barefoot said...

Here's to not walking down the aisle! The thought made me nervous too. Instead, my guy and our families and wedding party people walked down a path to the beach. Walking with a bunch of people was so much more comforting than walking alone.

Lisa B. said...

Since you mentioned your college background, I am curious if the historical implications of the father walking his daughter down the aisle had any impact on your decision not to partake in the tradition. I struggle with this because I *hate* the idea of the transfer of property from father's family to husband ("giving away" the bride) but I don't know a good way around it, other than doing just as you did. I love my dad so much and want him to have a special role like that, but I don't want to symbolize what to me was an offensive practice.

irisira said...

Lisa B., I'm with you. My father has never been in the picture, and my grandfather passed away 4 1/2 years ago, so this fortunately is not something I need to tackle.

I love the idea of walking down "the aisle" arm in arm with my FH. I love what the OP did here as much as that. My mother, however, is exceedingly superstitious and I could see her disapproving. We'll see.

Anne said...

I feel like I have this attitude, consciously and unconsciously, with every aspect of my life! hahaha :o)
"If someone gives you ruled paper, write the other way."

A Los Angeles Love said...

Yeeees. Our venue may have an aisle, but the ceremony site is a bit of a hike from any buildings. So mingling it is, because that's what makes sense for us and our situation. Without any stress about the general "shoulds and shouldn'ts" that don't necessarily apply to us and our needs.

Molly said...

Lisa B -- I'm wondering the same thing you are. I love the idea of walking down the isle with my FH, hand in hand or arm in arm, but I know my dad would be really disappointed in not having that role. That's one of the only things he's really looking forward to.

Unknown said...

I was very adamant about not wanting to walk down the aisle - didn't want the attention, didn't want the fan fare, didn't want to pay for an organist. But, it was a Catholic wedding so there was kind of seemed to be no way to get out of it. I threw fits and cried and yelled and came up with a whole slew of alternatives. Then my husband said, "But I was really looking forward to seeing you come down the aisle." And that was that -- because sometimes it's not about what I want.

P.S. - The organist turned out to be worth every penny.

P.P.S - the part two of the story, is that my mother had a big banquet for us in Taiwan afterward and made us process into the room. To Pachelbel's Canon -- which has always been on my list of "Don't play at my wedding". But...the day and event is important to other people too.

Cupcake Wedding said...

our ceremony has stadium seating benches, which means the aisle is to the side. This makes me so happy because I do not want to walk down the middle in a big show and have everyone stare at me.

Olivia said...

Great post, thank you!

I'm always amazed by the sense of relief when I realize that what is driving me nuts is trying to plan around a rule that I *don't have to follow* When I see that, and let it go, there's always such a sense of relief.

Angry Bride said...

You can't imagine the feelings of relief I am experiencing that I am not the only one who has dreaded this part of the wedding!

Right now, my dad and I are not talking and I am not even sure he will be invited to the wedding, let alone "giving me away". I had already asked my mom to walk with us, as they are divorced and it didn't seem apt that my dad was to represent the whole parenting team anymore.

Besides that, I am getting married in an art gallery. I'm not quite sure how I am going to manage the dramatic entrance when it is a wide open space. It's been causing me a lot of strife, but it is so freeing to realize I have the option of just not doing it that way!

elizabeth said...

I just wanted to to say that you’re awesome.

My friend is getting married at the end of the year and i’m doing her invitations and anything else that ends up needing a graphic touch. Thus i’m being a good little bridesmaid and actually doing wedding research (something that is so not my thing). Long story short i stumbled across your blog and can stop reading. It’s comforting to know there are other thoughtful people in the world who are actively willing to think outside the box. (Whether or not they chose to act on those thoughts) I’m going to be passing your blog to my friend and since i’ve sent the last couple of hours perusing your blog i just wanted to say thanks. I personally think we bitch and moan that we don’t praise enough. This is me trying to do better. Congrats on your awesomeness & apologies for the rambling comment. Cheers!

Sara E. Cotner said...

@ elizabeth: Thank you so much for taking the time to "praise"! It makes the world a much better place (and I appreciate it!).

Anonymous said...

A friend of mine is very nervous about walking down the aisle. After a bit of searching this is the first page to list some practical ideas. Chatting with guest prior is a lovely idea, I hope my friend enjoys ur ideas as much as I did reading them. also what about bride n groom meeting guests as they arrive together, the bride walking in from behind. both sides of wedding party walking in from the ends and bride walking in with their children to lessen nerves or to challenge tradition.

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