They've been wonderful, and offered us a generous amount. It's hard stuff to talk about; we've all survived by saying as little as possible. However, because we're taking their money, I feel we need to take their direction, too. Or, rather, respect their wishes. Some of them, anyway. Or, just be open to what they have to say. Well, OK, at least tell them how we’re spending their dough. But really, it's our call. Because they're not getting married, we are. Right?
Around the time we were in deepest, darkest part of the date/place/budget/size forest, and trying to figure out what we owed to whom, I went to the Smart Marriages conference, which I mentioned in my second column. What I haven’t yet told you about is the part that made my mouth drop open in recognition and relief: the banquet presided over by Bill Doherty, a professor of family science at the University of Minnesota. It was called "Let's Talk About Weddings," and in it Doherty, a long-time marital educator, took his colleagues to task.
Why, he asked them, do marriage-preparation experts insist on ignoring the wedding in their work, when it is a magnet for most of the major issues a couple will face later on? I almost fell off my chair, because the approach he was criticizing was exactly the one I'd been taking: A wedding is just a party; the marriage is what’s important. If I can't handle this, I'm a big baby. But no, Doherty said—and confessed that it had struck him like a ton of bricks while helping his daughter and son-in-law plan their recent nuptials—weddings are about power and money and control and loyalty and, of course, "family of origin" (psych-speak for "the inlaws"). And all these tensions are wrapped up together in the form of your first big public test, your first big performance, where you are the star, dressed up and looking perfect. And by the way, why are you crying, Bridezilla?
Turns out that the issues you've tried to keep separate by fervently believing it's really "your day" and “all about you" show up at the party, after all.
If acknowledging that fact is new to people working in the relationship field, I'd say I can stop beating myself up for feeling conflicted. I can't tell you how much better Doherty’s speech has made me feel.