Lately, I’ve developed a disconcerting obsession with weddings. Having never been one to fantasize about princess-dom, Cinderella being my least favorite of the fairy tales, and not currently in possession of a boyfriend, much less a fiancé, you can see where my sudden preoccupation with invitations and veils (or lack thereof) and engagement rings might raise some red flags. I have no desire or means to have a wedding any time soon. But I can’t stop thinking about them.
When I was a kid, I considered weddings a thing of imaginative utility; I played wedding because my mom donated this beautiful white silk slip she had to our dress-up box, and to me it became the most elegant wedding dress in the world. The pear tree out back, in addition to producing sour, mealy, pears, blossomed with flowers that I thought looked like the “confetti” that guests at the wedding threw at the happy couple as they tumbled out of the church. Sporting my mother’s slip as a strapless gown, I’d parade barefoot down the driveway with my sister as our friends threw chunks of the pear blossom confetti at our heads. I played wedding, but not for the fantasy of the groom (I was, after all, always marrying my sister in my father’s discarded suit jacket), but for the pragmatism of readily available props.
My own parents, a couple since they were 17, eloped at 28. Their betrothal was a mutual decision lacking in something borrowed, something blue, or even diamonds. After being together for a decade, they figured they might as well officially hitch one wagon to the other. Though they set about planning a wedding, my folks aren’t the romantic types. Realizing they had no use for invitations or ceremony, my mother bought a creamy silk suit, my father put on one of his two ties, and they eloped with their best friends as their witnesses one weekend at the Ho-Ho-Kus, NJ, City Hall. My mom doesn’t even have an engagement ring.
I’ve only been to a handful of weddings in my lifetime, and most were when I was too young to care about anything other than my piece of the cake. But I’m getting to that age where I feel like my single – or unwed – friends are going to start dropping like flies. My fascination with weddings is, I’m sure, wrapped up in my December transition from mid-twenties to late-twenties, and the fact that my parents sat me down recently to discuss the process of buying a new car when my faithful 2000 Dodge Neon eventually dies. To me, committing to a new car – and writing out the check to prove it – is as adult as picking out wedding bands, and the whole conversation made me realize that the possibility of a mortgage, a joint bank account, and deciding whether or not to take his name is right around the corner (pretty sure I’m going to be keeping mine, in all its already hyphenated glory).
In reaction to these brutal inevitabilities of adult life, I choose to revel in the fantastically romantic instead. Since there’s no wedding album of my parents’ for me to pour over, I scrutinize the online albums of friends, friends of friends, and of complete strangers. I’m less interested in the traditional weddings: bride and groom flanked by bridesmaids in J.Crew gowns and groomsmen all wearing the same bowties, standing under some sort of altar. The albums that grab me are the ones shot through vintage lenses, showing two people who share the same love of tattoos and whiffie pies, or an adoration of Buddy Holly and bulldogs. The ones who get married barefoot (like my sister and me) in a field of wild flowers and then serve fresh caught salmon to their guests seated at a long, rustic table, and dance to a bluegrass band til 2am. The pressure to marry and procreate seems to have skipped a generation, but I feel like my peers and I are experiencing a shift, a return, to domesticity. 20-somethings get famous for their blogs advertising their DIY armchairs and soufflé concocting prowess just as frequently as they’re getting book deals for their heady novels…if not more so.
As for me, I don’t think I’ll ever dream of the picket fence and 2.5 kids, but I do occasionally stop to consider if I would double hyphenate my hypothetical offspring’s last name. I’m starting to think about the type of person who will share my obsession with hip hop mashups and rotisserie chicken, who will teach me a thing or two about something new (like keeping plants alive, or how to play the banjo), who will tolerate my need to blast “Sugar Magnolia” on a sunny spring day, who will find my bad dancing endearing. Thinking about these characteristics, though, is as far as I’ve gotten. Whether it’s laziness, fear, or a blind faith in something called fate I don’t know, but I haven’t yet done the whole OK Cupid meet up thing. I mean, I’m on the website. I’ve just never actually met anyone from the website in person. I’m an old school romantic. So, instead, I think about weddings.
I’ve thought long and hard about what type of ceremony would suit me, since my religious philosophy revolves around the Billie Holiday sentiment, “God bless the child that’s got his own.” I get embarrassed when I’m the center of attention, and the end to just about any romantic comedy usually makes me nauseous. I imagine my own commitment to love, then, would be something to take the pressure off, some sort of multimedia presentation. Maybe a stop-action short film. Maybe an interpretive dance (not performed by me – I’ve got a couple of friends in mind). Maybe just a simple, victorious fist pump revealing wedding bands, and then it’s party time. Though I know that nothing would please my father the chef more than to cook the food for the reception, I think that there’s something cool about asking each guest to bring a dish – a potluck reception – to help fill up the newlyweds’ new recipe box.
Sometimes, I close my eyes and I can see myself dancing, barefoot, in a white linen dress – unfussy, easily washed, definitely not strapless or a sweetheart cut – on some grassy knoll or sandy dune somewhere. I see a band playing long into the summer night as my partner and I celebrate our patience, amusement, respect, and, of course, love, for each other with the people who love us most. What gives me some sort of hope for my sanity is that, while I can see the essence of my wedding, the soul of my wedding, rather clearly, I can’t see – nor do I demand to see – the specifics. The year. The location. The groom. He’s a mystery to me – a silhouette – and I use the image of the tuxedo’ed man on top of sugary white wedding confections as a placeholder. I might have my fantasies about placecards and wildflowers, but I’ll leave it up to the groom – wherever he may be – to determine himself.