To-Be Lists

The early days of wedding planning fly by in a haze of blogs, magazines and websites. It’s actually a relief to be engaged. Now I can talk to someone other than myself about the prospect of getting married. In fact, such is my delight, that I adopt a freebie ‘I Do’ canvas shopper as my new handbag – filled with wedding magazines, obviously. From blog posts about the ‘Village Hall Wedding on a £2,000 Budget’ to the feature on lavish letterpress invites, it all looks so luscious and enviable. I want a piece of it. I want it all. It all looks so perfect, so inviting, so…so..confusing. Am I a Village Hall bride? A rustic, country wedding bride? What kind of bride am I? Where do I fit in?

And at that crossroads, I sat down and took a rest. Just a little rest. A small one..that lasted ooh about six months or so. Ok, so I threw a tantrum. Wedding planning was just too hard! I gave up. I behaved exactly how hubby does at an Indian buffet. I got so confused by the vast spectrum of choices that I failed to make a choice at all, opting instead to camp out in the pub while everyone else salivates over Rachel Samosa shoes. When you are 8 months out from getting married, a 6 month hiatus can prove a problem. I wanted so much to be a part of it all, to be that bridal blogger that shares every detail with her followers (known to the rest of us as her friends and family). I wanted to discuss quirky table names in online forums and turn my nose up at sugared almond favours.

Of course, the reason why I was so overwhelmed with planning was that I just didn’t have the right wedding planning diary. So, I did what clearly needed to be done to address the situation. I invested in a new, leather bound, pretty-fly-for-a-white-wedding planner. With more tabs than a dealer at a rave, it was clearly going to organise this wedding for me – all I needed to do was just stare at it. Yes, this would put paid to planning paralysis once and for all. Of course it did no such thing and said wedding planner currently resides in a box upstairs marked ‘eBay’.

In fact my real problem was far greater, darker, older, more primitive and more uncomfortable than simply being overwhelmed by planning. At this point, I should say that if you came to this blog, looking for more ‘stunning/amazing/>insert other over-used wedding adjective<‘ details, then look away now. We are about to go deep, my friend.

As it turns out, in all of the goody bags I gathered at wedding shows, none of them contained the one thing that would have proved invaluable to my wedding – some self-worth. Even a trial-sized version would have helped. There was no magazine with a pull out guide titled ‘100 Tips for Deserving Brides’. No blog offered me the chance to like and share their page in return for winning ‘A weekend of Self-Worth for You and Your Bridesmaids’. And, quite worryingly, given how I have previously boasted about my finely-tuned list-making skills, not once in the process did I check a box marked ‘Know that you deserve this happiness’. After, years of counselling, reading most of the HayHouse back-catalogue and indulging in alternative therapies, I should have been ‘fixed’ enough to know that, of course, no one can give you that self-worth. But, in a process that involved making choices, not once did I ever make the choice to allow myself to just enjoy this happy time in my life. Writing that sentence makes me sad. It makes me cry. There are many years and many reasons why I, thorn-in-the-family side, felt this way. But the fact that, at 34 years old having journeyed through an incredible six years with a wonderful man, I couldn’t take some enjoyment from it..well, that really makes me bloody sad.

As it now turns out, my initial complaint about being overwhelmed by all of the planning and vast choice was not the real reason why I buried my head in the sand for six months. Oh, ok, you knew that?

I realise now of course – although clearly a little late – that it was merely a story I had told myself in order to avoid the uncomfortable truth – that ‘Happy Ever After’ was for other people.

If I was really being honest with myself and others, the truth would have gone like this:

‘You know what? I have no interest in cooing over flower crowns with the rest of you deliriously happy brides because that is your thing. And I’m not like you. I am an alien in this wedding world. An unhappy alien who had secretly thought that she was going to end up alone, broken-hearted and miserable. Because that’s what has always happened to me. And that’s what was going to happen until Himself selfishly came along and started loving me and messed it all up. And now I am here with you lot and your fishtail side-plaits and your teeth whitening. And it could be fun but I won’t let it be because I want to be unhappy, because that’s what I do. That’s what I deserve. Oh and also I like to be right. So I will just stay over here being right and unhappy like I had always known I would be and you lot can just stay over there…with your blogs and your supportive wedding communities and your..your..crafting and your..stuff. Your happy stuff. Stay over there. Back. Back some more. Back a little further – I don’t want your happy germs. Meanwhile, I’ll be over here making up excuses as to why I can’t enjoy getting married. Yeah, you wish you were at this partaaaaay beatches. Whoop! Whoop! *Swigs from personalised bottle of Hooch*

Listen, if you have found your way to this blog and you have read this post, then please take this from it: you deserve to be this happy. It might sound like I am stating the obvious but I KNOW that there are other aliens like me, who despite years of taking the credit for Oprah’s ‘Aha!’ moments, still can’t let themselves have their slice of happy. Whether you are reading this as a bride-to-be, a full-fledged Mrs or you are a righteous single sister living the dream, if you never hear it again, hear it now: You deserve to be audaciously, supremely, cartwheeling, flower-crowning happy. Not just now but ALL the time. Not just when you get engaged, not just when you walk down the aisle, not just when you dance your first dance. Please, enjoy this special time. Enjoy having people around that are genuinely happy for you. Enjoy having the opportunity to celebrate your love. Self-sabotage can creep up on you in many guises. For me, it is stress. All former colleagues of mine will attest to it, my family are wary of it and my husband (irritatingly) laughs at it. ‘Sarah Stress’ is not a fleeting episode or mood. Once the mist descends, it stays. It is like carbon dioxide and nothing else can survive in the space that it occupies, least of all joy. Maybe you have your own version of ‘getting married’. Maybe there is somewhere in your life where you are sitting on the sidelines, arms crossed, holding on to a story about who you are in your life. And maybe the thing that costs you your joy in life is also stress. Or maybe, it’s your weight or people’s opinions or a bump in your nose or an argument you had with someone once, somewhere, over something you can’t quite recall. Whatever it is, it’s costing you and you know it.

Your married elders will tell you that your wedding day will be over in a flash. It’s true. You will wake up the next day and, though euphoric after such an epic party, you will be stunned that with all of the anticipation and excitement, it is suddenly over. Just like that. And in the days and weeks that follow, people will ask you, ‘Would you change anything about the day?’ I hate to say it but I would. When I look back at my wedding and, by wedding I mean the planning and execution, I know that I deprived myself. I know I cost myself something. Whether, through my refusal to enjoy the ‘process’ or with my nuclear-reactor stress levels on the day, I cost myself that joy. I will never get that back. So remember to add this to your planning checklist: invite self to party. Remember that everyone is here to celebrate your love. Remember that this is supposed to be a happy time in your life and everyone around you is celebrating and rejoicing. Join them. Do not deprive yourself of one more minute of joy, not on your wedding day. Not on any day.