Fox and I have had our eye on a potential venue for some time now. It seems like a great deal, near a delicious and affordable caterer, with places to stay nearby … pretty much everything we could want in a wedding venue, plus breakfast at no additional cost. We just need to visit the place, ask some questions, and make a decision: yay, nay, or let’s look at some other venues and compare.
I’ve been itching to go check it out. Planning a wedding might not be the wisest decision right now, but it’s something that helps me feel energized and motivated. It gives me something concrete to look forward to in the foreseeable future. An outlet for my creativity. A goal. We need to secure a venue, so we’ll have a definite date, so we can do everything else.
Fox’s folks asked to come with us when we go visit the venue, which is a couple hours’ drive away, figuring we could make a mini vacation out of it. That sounded wonderful to me, I just wanted to invite my mother to join us – largely so she wouldn’t feel left out. Based on past experience, she’d be quite miffed if she found out we’d gone to see a potential venue with Fox’s parents but without her. She’s my mother, I want to try and have a healthy relationship with her, so I figure part of that is reaching out and including her in important things like this. She might even have something useful to contribute – she’s smart and has a lot of experience in the world, so I value her opinion highly.
But when I asked Mom about her availability on Sunday, all hell broke loose. She didn’t seem to want to commit to a date and time at first. She raised a myriad of concerns:
- Was this really my idea, or was I just going along with Fox and his parents (who suggested the venue)?
- What about the venue she had suggested? We should get an updated quote from them.
- Can they accommodate our entire guest list, even if it rains?
- What’s really included in the deal? Are there extra expenses we’re not aware of?
- Who’s paying for this and how?
- Pretty much everyone will have to travel a distance; most people will want/need a place to stay. That will reduce the amount they’re willing to spend on gifts and/or give directly to us – if they come at all.
- The places to stay near the venue are small; the nearest big-name hotel is 20 miles away.
- What do I mean I don’t plan to wear makeup?! I don’t want my face to look red and splotchy in my wedding photos, do I?
- My new haircut is too short. There aren’t enough layers.
- We should call and ask questions before taking a long, expensive trip out to the venue location.
I think some of her concerns are legit and I appreciate her raising them.
- Getting an updated quote from the other venue is a good idea, but there were a few things about it that rubbed me the wrong way.
- The wording on the website is a bit ambiguous, so it wouldn’t hurt to ask whether the indoor space alone can accommodate our whole guest list.
- Always ask about additional expenses. Tax and tip can make the difference between “affordable” and “too expensive.” And I intend to get as much in writing as I possibly can.
- We’ll need to make extra-specially sure there are sufficient accommodations for guests near the wedding venue; we intend to look into securing a group discount from one or more of the closer inns, possibly also the big-name hotel.
- She definitely has a point about calling to ask questions first. It can save us a lot of time and money, especially if we don’t like the answers we get.
- But I hate making phone calls and really want to see the place in person. Road trips can be fun and worth the expense, if you do them right. Fox’s Mom is treating us and she already called to make reservations.
I think some of Mom’s concerns are actually an attempt to manipulate me, regardless of whether that is her conscious intent.
I’d be more inclined to take her concern about whether this is really what I want – not just what Fox and his folks want – seriously, if she weren’t also trying to control what I put on my face. How can she claim to support me in making my own decisions and acting on them, if she’s choosing to interrupt a discussion about an important decision I need to make (and want her input in!) so she can criticize my appearance? That’s the last thing I need to be worrying about right now. It hurts extra because I had just stopped beating myself up over (my warped perception of) my appearance; just chosen to love and accept myself as I am and to focus on healthy things that are important to me.
I’m choosing to accept my face as it naturally looks instead of just going along with society’s obsession with female “beauty” – which is all about covering up one’s natural appearance with expensive products. Why do I have to wear makeup if Fox will be next to me in the exact same photos, his face naked? If Mom can’t support – or at least quietly accept – my decision to passively stand up against a faceless nameless “society” by not wearing makeup, how can she support me in actively standing up to people I love and admire?
Money is a very serious concern. Fox and I don’t have much of it; we need to be careful and we need to budget. But there is money set aside for the wedding – mostly promised by Mom and Fox’s folks. In the meantime we’re working on what we need to do be able to support ourselves financially. There are better ways to bring this up and have a conversation about it that might help us instead of undermining whatever hope and determination we’ve managed to muster. When I don’t have the answers I feel anxious and guilty; those emotions quickly turn into discouragement, the last thing I need if I’m going to get anywhere.
People will do what they need to do and will give what they’re willing and able to give. It’s important to Fox and me that people come and have a good time. We can use all the help we can get, but we’re not inviting our loved ones to the wedding because we want them to give us stuff. We’re inviting them to celebrate something that’s really important to us, and giving people who rarely see each other an excuse to come together. I really don’t want to exclude anyone because they can’t afford a hotel room – that’s why we plan on looking into group discounts. But the bit about expenses reducing the amount we get back in gifts just seems manipulative: it pokes at a basic human instinct (wanting to get stuff) and distracts from the bigger picture, for the purpose of making me question a decision I’m considering making.
By the time we were done, I thought I didn’t want to do any of the wedding planning if it’s going to be like this. I felt completely wiped out and discouraged, all the energy and excitement I’d had gone.
I’m past obsessing over the tiny details that the bridal industry blows way out of proportion, so you think the fate of the entire universe rests on you picking the right design for your customized napkins. My goal is to throw an amazing party – which means we need a nice accessible venue, a variety of delicious food so everyone has something to eat, music people can dance to, some organization of the time (e.g. ceremony, first dance, etc.), access to places where guests can meet their basic needs (e.g. sleep), and clear communication about all of the above (e.g. invitations, a website). Everything else is icing on the cake.
This perspective is my armor in the battle that is navigating the bridal industry. But I don’t have armor to protect against what Mom threw at me. Her criticism of my appearance was an especially “low blow” because, try as I might to assert the contrary, I have internalized society’s messages about how important it is for a woman to be “beautiful.” I want to look good in my wedding photos, but there are other ways I can do that – such as wearing clothes I find comfortable so I’m not grimacing in pain, hiring a competent photographer, and having a genuine smile on my face because I’m enjoying myself. If my mother thinks all that isn’t enough, I still need makeup on top of it to prevent people from being tempted to burn my wedding photographs, what value does my life really have? If I can’t stand in front of the people I love and trust the most in the world and be accepted as I am – if the people I’m choosing to share this amazingly huge and meaningful transition with can’t wholeheartedly celebrate it with me – because I’m not wearing makeup … either she has a devastatingly low opinion of me, or she thinks the people on our guest list are incredibly shallow.
This wedding is a really big deal. It’s going to be the first, and very likely the last, time I’ll be in the limelight in the middle of a very large family (especially if you combine my and Fox’s families). It brings up a lot of anxiety. Will I be accepted as I am, having made the choices I’ve made – from as big as the building in which we’re celebrating, to as small as naked pores on my face? The whole wedding is a reflection of Fox and me: the people we associate with, our taste in food, music, fashion, our consideration of people’s needs and preferences, the degree to which we’re willing to perpetuate heteronormativity.
I think Mom’s scared because she sees everything I do as a reflection of her; from her perspective I am her reflection – she doesn’t seem to see me. She wants the model of what a daughter and her wedding should be, so she’ll be accepted by a family she’s afraid of disappointing. For some reason she finds it too painful to look at who and what I truly am. And often – far too often – so do I.