My boyfriend Sam and I were nearing the end of an impromptu picnic celebrating our fourth anniversary. Sam, who had been acting strangely nervous all day, blurted out that he had something to ask me.
In one of the best and surreal moments of my life, Sam got down on one knee, and asked me to marry him. I kneeled down to his level and told him, “Of course.”
Sam and I had discussed marriage before. I knew without a doubt that he was absolutely the man I wanted to spend my life with, and I was super-psyched to have him as my companion in love and in life.
But during our many discussions, I emphasized that I absolutely did not want to have a big wedding. I have always found big weddings to be overrated. How could I focus on the joy of getting married amidst all the drama and hoopla of extended families, guest lists, caterers, and so forth?
Besides, I've always been a shy and anxiety-ridden introvert. A lavish ceremony with me as the center of attention sounded like an absolute nightmare.
No, I always knew that if I ever got married, it would just be me and the man I loved. My dream wedding would be a private ceremony on the beach of some far flung island, with just me, my groom, and an officiant.
Sam was more than fine with my desire for a private ceremony. In fact, he seemed relieved, so after his proposal, I immediately began to fantasize/plan my dream wedding.
Delirious with happiness, we began to let family and friends know about our engagement. And then the barrage of wedding questions began. What are your colors? When are we looking at cakes? Do you need a caterer recommendation? What's your venue? What about bridesmaids, groomsmen, flower girls?
My joy immediately began to fade and turn into stress. Everyone seemed to expect a big wedding that I didn't want and certainly couldn't afford. Sam and I had low-paying jobs, and our parents were not in a position to finance a wedding.
But I’ve always been a people pleaser. So despite a feeling of impending dread, I began to second-guess my dream wedding. Maybe we could have a ceremony, I thought. We could put aside some money each month, maybe put some expenses on our credit card — maybe even get a loan.
As I thought of ways to have a more traditional wedding to make everyone else happy, my dream ceremony got further and further away. The joy and excitement I’d felt about my upcoming marriage was replaced by anxiety.
And then my anxiety turned to resentment. My family and friends knew how shy I was, how I hated being the center of attention, and my long-standing anxiety issues. Why couldn't they understand and accept my desire for a private ceremony?
When the stress got to the point where it became overwhelming, I made myself take a mental step back. I realized that I was losing sight of what I wanted by trying to please everyone else.
Sam and I decided to come to a compromise we were both happy with, and to stand firmly by it. We'd have the private ceremony I'd always wanted, and then throw a small casual reception for family and friends a few weeks later.
When we came to the decision, it felt as if a huge weight had been lifted, and the joy I’d felt when I first got engaged returned.
But my joy was short-lived. When we informed our loved ones what we planned to do, their responses were judgmental and hurtful. A close friend stared at me in disbelief when I told her of my plans, before nodding in silence and abruptly changing the subject. A close relative told me point blank she was “pissed."
I was met with another barrage of questions, this time overwhelmingly negative — Won't you regret it? What about your family? How could you not want a wedding?
Friends and family made snarky jokes poking fun at the way I'd chosen to be married, with an undercurrent of genuine hostility.
“So… a wedding where no one’s invited. How is that a wedding again? Ha ha! Just kidding."
“What you’re really saying is… I’m not invited. Kidding!”
I would play along with the jokes, but I really just wanted one person to offer their congratulations. I was sad and disappointed in the people I thought knew me so well.
As it grew closer to our wedding date, I found myself dreading social events, knowing that I would have to endure snarky or snide comments about my wedding.
I reluctantly allowed my best friend from high school to throw a bachelorette party. I did want to celebrate with my girlfriends before I tied the knot, as long as it was small and casual, to which my friend agreed.
But I was worried that the night would be ruined by the inevitable hurtful comments, as many of my girlfriends had been negative about my upcoming wedding.
To my relief, a friend who was visiting from out of town told me about the massive drama she was undergoing as she dealt with her sister's wedding, and gave me a pat on the back.
“You're doing it right,” she said, giving me a reassuring smile.
It was the only positive comment I can recall from a friend leading up to my ceremony.
When the day of my wedding finally arrived, I was able to push aside all of the negativity and truly enjoy my dream wedding. It was intimate and emotional, we both cried, and just enjoyed the presence of each other. It was truly magical, and I'm so glad I stuck to my guns and had the ideal wedding for me.
And to my great relief, the reception a few weeks later was fun and enjoyable, with no underhanded comments about our ceremony — the photographs and our joy in them spoke for themselves.
In the weeks since my wedding, there have still been negative comments from friends and strangers alike about how I chose to get married.
Descriptions of my private ceremony have been met with either stunned silence, or statements like,“Well, I would want to have a wedding” or “I can’t imagine not having anyone there!”
But I choose to respond to that negativity with a smile, firmly telling the naysayers that I have no regrets about my wedding, and I'd do it all over again. And you know what? I would.