I think I've told everyone in the entire world about this, but just in case you didn't know, I'm engaged, which makes me a bride. That word illicit so many images and ideas. Everything from the obnoxious Bridezillas of Utube videos and tv reality shows, to the simplicity of white dresses and veils, to the lavish affairs of Hollywood's stars and royalty. But what does it truly mean to be ... a bride? And more importantly, what does it mean to me?
In the interest of full discloser, I have to admit that this isn't my first time. Six years ago this month, at 23 years old, I had a wedding. I wore a wedding dress and a veil, I walked down the isle and exchanged vows. But though that entire experience, I never felt like a bride. Now, 6 short years later, at 27 years old, from the moment my love got down on one knee and slipped the ring on my finger, I have felt like a bride! What has made the difference and what can I learn about myself from looking back and looking forward?
So many things are different in my life now that it's hard to know where to start. Although 22 isn't young in many circles it was very young for me. Although at the time getting married seemed so "right", now it's so obvious to see the skewed motivations.
I was disparately trying to define myself. I was going through a difficult separation process from a very over baring and controlling father, and the moment I stepped out of the role of "daughter", without any sense of self, I found myself craving the defined role that had always been placed on me. The role of "wife" seemed the logical next step and a lot less scary than floundering around as just "bonnie". On top of that my ex and I were the first in either of our families to openly live together. As the son of a preacher and the daughter of a very religious mother, to say the least it didn't go over very well and contributed to a feeling of needing to get married rather than wanting to get married. I hate to say I got married for money but I was in college, supporting myself completely. Going to school full time and working up to full time at minimum wage jobs, just seemed overwhelming. Two incomes and only one rent seemed to be my only option.
Under these circumstances I was proposed to and accepted. Technically at that moment I became a bride, and even though I had craved the feeling of being one, looking back now, I see I never really walked in the role.
I spent the next 9 months of my life doing everything I could to make sure everyone else was ok. My primary planning partner was my to-be-mother-in-law, who was hosting the whole event at her house due to a huge lack of funds on our parts. We didn't see eye to eye on a lot of things and I felt that since it was her house, she should get the final say. She's also notorious for asking questions in a way that implies the "correct" answer (ie "you don't want to use purple table clothes do you?" when I had just sent her a picture of a purple table cloth I wanted to use.) I ended up with a lovely little ceremony and reception, but it hardly resembled the affair I had wanted. Especially in the fact that I spent the few days before and the day of in knots with people asking me questions like how did I want the lemons cut? (That particular question was asked of me approximately an hour before the wedding was supposed to begin and I had yet to even get in the shower! I almost screamed, I couldn't give a flying fuck how they are cut! Just fucking CUT THEM!) I put most of the chairs out myself in the living room, I cut up bread and picked up the sweet tea the morning of the ceremony and was the last to get into the shower after all my bridesmaids (45 minutes before the ceremony started.) I felt like no one was there to help ME (except for my mom), and truthfully I resented it for many many years. At the end of the day I felt more like a hired hand or a part of the catering staff than I did the bride.
So, here we are again. And everything seems so different. Why is that? Well for one we have a budget that we've created together instead of a budget I decided was what I could put on MY credit card. I don't feel like I'm at the mercy of anyone, or that I'm relying strictly on being in any one person's good graces. I have a fiance who is excited and involved in the planning process and wants this to be everything I've ever dreamed of. But even beyond those external dimensions, I think the biggest factor is internal. This time I believe that I DESERVE to be a bride! I deserve to have one day where I get to be the center of attention. Last time I hesitated to ask anyone for help for fear of annoying them or asking too much. And deep down I didn't feel like I deserved the help anyway. I didn't have enough self esteem to validate my right to be the bride. Maybe that's because I didn't know who the "I" in all those sentences was. Now I've had the opportunity to spend a year on my own. I've developed a great sense of who "I" am and now I can go into this wedding (and marriage) knowing I won't make the same mistakes I did before. Because for me, being a bride is more than white dresses and flowers and veils, it's about having enough self validation to stand up in front of everyone and say, "yes! I DO deserve this! I deserve to be happy. I deserve to be in love. I deserve to have my friends and family come together to celebrate all this with me. I deserve to have people stand up and say nice things about me."
It's amazing how far one can come in just 6 short years.
Thanks for reading,
aka the BRIDE!