Help me feel excited about getting married!
March 18, 2014 8:01 AM   Subscribe

My wonderful fiancé and I getting married this August. While I'm happy at the thought of "officially" starting a life together, we've been together more than eight years, and it doesn't feel like a huge deal any more. I'm also stressed about my career, which is occupying my mind most of the time. The actual wedding is being organized entirely by my parents, and neither of us are thrilled about what the ceremony's shaping up to be. What can I/we do to make the whole getting hitched thing more meaningful for us?

Career woes: Fiancé currently lives 2 hours away. We're both academics. For various good reasons, we've decided that having him move from his job is not practical, and I should try to get a job in his city instead. I applied to all of the handful of faculty jobs in the city and haven't heard back from any. It's late in the season, so this probably means I'm out of the running. It's driving me to borderline depression. Granted, it is not the end of the world, since I can stay at my current position another year and apply again, but we'd really like to start married life living together, and more than that, I'm worried I won't get a job next year either. (If you're familiar with the academic world, you probably know what the odds are.) I'm mentally prepared to look for non-academic jobs, of course, but I really want to stay in academia.

Ceremonial frivolities: Though we live in the US now, we're both from India, and our wedding is going to be there. As is the custom, my parents are paying for it -- for which I'm very grateful -- but I obviously don't have much say. (To pre-empt suggestions that we contribute to the cost: it's simply not possible. I suggested it, and my parents were hugely offended.)

In contrast to the picture painted by Bollywood, our wedding will be an extremely sober affair: a short 6 am religious ceremony on a weekday (non-negotiable; don't ask) followed by breakfast, and: end. No music or dancing, no opportunities to socialize with the guests, and certainly no alcohol. This could be offset by the prospect of my parents saving money to have a simple wedding, but they insist on splurging on the most expensive venue in town. It seems like a huge waste to spend so much money on such a low-key affair. To add to that, most of our friends from home have moved away, and our US friends won't be able to make the trek. Besides our close family, we don't have emotional attachments to the majority of guests that will be attending. We're not religious at all, so that aspect of it is totally lost on us. The whole plan makes me yawn just thinking about it.

Finally, we didn't have an official engagement or down-on-the-knee proposal (for feminist reasons, and because that's not part of Indian culture anyway), so we never experienced the giddy engagement phase I hear about. Our families just kept asking us if we were finally ready to get married, and we talked to each other, and eventually said yes.

TLDR: We're getting married, and feeling very blah about it. While I know there's more to marriage than the wedding, etc., it would be nice to have... I guess, a spiritual moment that makes the transition to being married, or something. Ideas on what we can do to have that moment? It doesn't have to be part of the wedding. I just don't want to feel like we had an expensive 6 am party and signed some papers and then life went on as usual (probably without even the consolation of moving in together immediately). We considered having another ceremony in the US for our friends, but decided we don't really want two ceremonies: it's like we're invalidating one of the ceremonies or something, which is worse. We might go ahead and have a casual reception/party in the US, and are open to suggestions on making that meaningful in some small way as well.

Also, if you are happily married and felt so-so about your wedding, feel free to tell me I'm making an unnecessarily big deal of this.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (22 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I had a wedding reception after the wedding itself for various convenience related reasons and it was really enjoyable. I highly recommend that you plan a party in the US- something small but meaningful with your friends involved. Of desi heritage, it was hard to plan something meaningful given that all the traditions involve not actually being married, but we ended up having a great "exchange of intentions" ceremony involving telling all guests that even though we were already married, it wasn't complete until we shared our intentions towards each other in front of them.

You need some of the bollywood. Get some music, some friends to do a choreographed dance, put on a fancy sari and some makeup, and enjoy it.

At the end of it though, when you look at the wedding pictures (and make sure you take a few), you will likely have a few regrets no matter what. The important part is to not regret who the groom was. If you're confident in that part, give yourself a break on the rest.

Definitely have a small reception with your friends. It doesn't matter if you're already married at that point- it will be easier on your friends who probably couldn't have easily flown to India for a big party there anyway.
posted by cacao at 8:11 AM on March 18, 2014 [5 favorites]

I think there's opportunity to add some meaningfulness to the reception/party you're considering having in the U.S. You and your finance could each give a little speech about why you're excited to be together, or others could give speeches in classic reception-style, you could have a dance together.

I went to a wedding once where we passed the rings through the crowd, so that everyone had a chance to hold them for a minute. We were supposed to use holding the rings as a moment to silently give our blessings to the couple, and when they put them on, the officiant said something about how their marriage was surrounded by a supportive and loving community. It was really nice. Maybe something like that?

Also, what about doing some kind of ritual together with your finance, just the two of you? Go somewhere special and speak your vows to one another in private?
posted by aka burlap at 8:13 AM on March 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

This actually ended up going in a different direction than I thought it would!

It's not a surprise that you feel so "meh" about getting married...the thing your parents are planning sounds boring and sterile as all hell.

Seconding cacao's suggestion, down to even having a small ceremonial thing (even something you totally make up) in front of your friends so it feels more real to you. It sounds like what you're feeling is that what your parents are doing isn't "you", but not wanting to have a formal ceremony gives you license to make up a ceremony that is you, so that sounds like a win-win. (You can write whatever vows or rituals you want! Have a symbolic bubblegum blowing contest if that's what you feel like, even!)

It sounds like you want some of the fizz and sizzle and fun and hoopla. Splurge on yourselves and do a little of it here. Tell your parents that it's a small party you wanted to have for the benefit of the friends who couldn't make it to the ceremony.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:16 AM on March 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

I am hesitant to respond to your question with a comedy link - but David Mitchel's soapbox on weddings might be interesting to you. He specifically touches on the notion that *not* organising your own wedding has some under-appreciated up-sides.
posted by rongorongo at 8:17 AM on March 18, 2014 [4 favorites]

I was 39 when I got married, and I pretty much just wanted to marry Husbunny and get on with it. I am the oldest and I was the first to marry and my parents wanted SOMETHING more than us at the courthouse. Husbunny is an only child, and his parents are pretty religious and they pretty much did not want to leave their little corner of the world.

We proposed a Las Vegas wedding (not a tacky one, a generic one in a hotel.) My parents were on-board, his parents flat-out refused.

His Mom suggested Gatlinburg, TN, which was fine with us, my parents balked.

We decided on a ceremony in Florida, where we were living, in our UU church with both a rabbi and our church's officient presiding. My parents were fine, his bit the bullet, and my mother's comment was "I sure hope it was Christian enough for his parents because it was Jewish enough for me."

We followed up with dinner and dancing at a local Cuban restaurant.

To say that I was unenthused with the process is an understatement. I could not have cared less.

But I am married and that is the important thing.

I do suggest that you and your fiance throw yourselves a lovely party in your current area (halfway between the two of you?) for your friends to help you celebrate your marriage.

Also, is there a way where you can each live equidistant from your jobs for the time being? This way you can be together (although with unpleasant commutes) until you can get a position with your husband.

The "giddy" feeling is silly. Marriage is an enterprise and the wedding planning should not eclipse the fact that you are making vows to make a life together.

posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:20 AM on March 18, 2014 [5 favorites]

I've had friends who have gone this route (boring Indian ceremony).

In this case, don't think of it as your wedding, think of it as "the thing I'm doing to make my parents happy" which we all suffer through from time to time. It's a family obligation.

Then come home, rent out a community hall or condo party room, invite all your friends and have a bash!
posted by St. Peepsburg at 8:21 AM on March 18, 2014 [12 favorites]

We had a secular ceremony and a party afterwards. The party was to celebrate the fact that we were now married. I think it is perfectly fine to have a party to celebrate - I don't think it would take away from the formal ceremony, but would let you have some of the Bollywood aspect as well. :) We had been together for 5 years, and also did not do the formal down-on-one-knee proposal, and most of the months leading up to my ceremony were filled with the boring planning stuff - we didn't have a big thing, so we didn't need to agonize over colors or napkins or anything like that, but we still had to do stuff like find a venue and decide what food to serve. I remember it being more practical than giddy.

For me, there was a really profound moment after the ceremony, where I realized oh my god I'm married now. It felt - different. It's hard to describe. But I felt as though all of the other roads I may have chosen were now closed. I felt as though all the "maybe we will/maybe we won't/other things could happen" dithering that my brain likes to do stopped. It felt.... final. It felt secure. Like I said, it's hard to describe.

So I would say - you may find that you have that private, personal moment at some point, and it may have nothing to do with the ceremony or the party. Many of my friends say that they felt this as well when they were married - sometimes right before or right after the ceremony, and sometimes well after.

On an unrelated note, I sympathize with your career stress. Academia is rough. I have no advice, really, but a lot of sympathy for you and I hope it works out well.
posted by RogueTech at 8:50 AM on March 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

We got married last summer - his first, my second. I wasn't thrilled about having a wedding to begin with. Despite being determined to try and just roll with things, most of the day was pretty stressful and I didn't enjoy myself nearly as much as I'd have hoped. Mostly stemming from it being in our own backyard, too many guests... my family failing to take charge as I'd hoped when I needed it for getting flowers on the tables... they thought they ran out of food but then at least my Bartender remembered the caterer left the other half in the oven... my fiancee's mom deciding to be way ahead of the game in getting HER little responsibility of wedding pie and coffee, and thinking I had neglected to buy paper coffee cups (as if!) she carted out every last coffee mug and cup and complained loudly... it goes on...

Honestly it was just one day. I'm happy we're married now, it does feel like we're bound together and it's good. There were nice moments, I tried to focus on those. My friend had given me a lego wedding cake that I decided to use as my cake topper. My dad was pretty happy, he really likes my husband. The little flowergirls, my nieces, were pretty cute. The photographer got some lovely photographs of everyone, I really like this one of my husband and me.

You're getting off light. So what if it's a family obligation, you just have to show up and play the part. To be honest I think you two should plan on your own event to mark the start of your real lives together, when you finally move to be with each other. That's what will mean the most.
posted by lizbunny at 8:58 AM on March 18, 2014

Is it possible that you could move together to a place equidistant to both of your jobs? An hour commute is not that bad, and this is something I remember my college professors talking about. I specifically remember a professor of mine commuting to teach in NYC from Pennsylvania, because his wife was also a professor, and that was what worked for them.

Re the wedding stuff, could you guys throw your own celebration in the US for your US friends that has more of what you guys want? Plenty of people have the official ceremony in one place/time/context and then throw a party somewhere else at a later date.
posted by Sara C. at 9:14 AM on March 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

I absolutely suggest having a reception/party in the US so that you can celebrate with more people that you know and care about, and make some good memories. You could even write and read some vows together! I've been involved with parties like this held everywhere from a city art gallery (city parks often have beautiful, affordable venues) to a beach (barbecue). Find something that suits you!

We quasi-eloped and had a party a year later; I'm not sure how I feel about the quasi-elopment but the party was a great idea.

Best wishes!
posted by wintersweet at 9:44 AM on March 18, 2014

Here in the UK, you can't do the legal bit anywhere that isn't either a church, registry office, or somewhere which has paid the extortionate fee to be a registered venue (some football grounds do it!!).

This is relevant because it puts in place a little bit of ritual that is almost unavoidable for the non-religious, non-loaded of us wanting to get married. Wherever you do it, whenever you do it, you have to make time to go to your appointment at the registry office and say the things/sign the stuff. Perhaps this is somewhat comparable to your situation.

A relative and now In-Law of mine who are dyed-in-the-wool eco-activists got married recently, and wanted to do it outdoors, so they did the registry office thing a few days before their wedding day. Then they did their "wedding" as planned, exactly how they wanted it. The only surprising outcome was that they felt a little more emotional than they expected when it came to the moment with the legal/formal stuff.

My rather nebulous point here, actually I have two, is that firstly, you might feel more than you think you will at the moment you get married in India. Be prepared for it to spring on you a bit, and be ready to enjoy it and remember it. Sometimes if you do a thing that means a lot to other people but not so much to you, it ends up feeling pretty important and special anyway.

The second thing, is that after you've done that, you can hold the celebration of it however you want. It doesn't take away any importance from the moment you signed the book/said the stuff. You get to celebrate it however you like, whether that is a big party with food and drink and getting properly dressed up, or a quiet ceremony you design yourselves with your closest friends and a meal after, or a picnic in the park with champagne and everyone you know invited. You get to choose, and I promise you, if you send out the invite saying "we got married! please join us for...", people will be super-thrilled for you, and bring you all the joy and excitement that you might not get from the first ceremony.

Also, I feel like the living apart thing and your career worries are a big elephant in the room being obscured by the wedding question. If you don't want to do your after-celebration until 6 months after the actual ceremony, then don't, you can still send a "save the date" invite anytime you like. In the meantime you can concentrate on finding a solution to this matter. Can you work a part-time non-academic job and write a paper/do some self-driven research/do some volunteer research or teaching to keep your hand in? Or can you look in a wider area at jobs which would allow you to work remotely?
posted by greenish at 9:48 AM on March 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh yes, I meant to say that I totally understand the academia thing too. :/ We got married when we did because of the academic year; took our honeymoon over winter break; then...well, that's why our party was on our first anniversary.

P.S. If you're looking for US positions, a few full-time jobs are trickling out, and adjunct positions are going up. I know that some people refuse to apply for adjunct/part-time positions on various grounds, but if that doesn't apply to you, I hope you are also considering adjunct positions. Good luck!
posted by wintersweet at 9:56 AM on March 18, 2014

My spouse and I finally got married after being together for over 11 years. Everyone kept asking us if we were excited about it, but we honestly just shrugged because it seemed like nothing more than a formality at that point. We were mostly doing it because we're both military and the fall of DADT and DOMA made it feel like the right time... but it was still just a formality for us.

We had a small, secular ceremony with no more than maybe 10 people in attendance. And then when it came time to say our canned vows provided to us by the non-denominational minister, something magical happened...

It occurred to us both that marriage actually MEANT something more than just a piece of paper. The ceremony wasn't important, the venue wasn't important, nothing was more important than the fact that we were making it official. For all the world (and to ourselves) to see.

Yes, we'd been together for 11 years already - but getting married changed things. We're no more committed to each other than we were before, but suddenly everything about our relationship has more meaning. Maybe it was the public commitment to each other, maybe it was the formal recognition of our relationship? I don't know what it was, but I know that it changed us and our relationship for the better. It made it more 'real'. I'm sure I'm doing a horrible job explaining this, but marriage changes you in ways that some might not really understand until the moment happens.

Point is, don't sweat the boring ceremony. Just go get married! When you get back to the states throw a reception with your friends. We had a reception at our house afterwards - put on by a friend whom I gave a budget of $150 - and it was a grand 'ol time. Go for it!
posted by matty at 10:15 AM on March 18, 2014 [4 favorites]

I got married six months ago, so this is all fresh for me.

First, CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR UPCOMING NUPTIALS! I know you aren't excited at the moment so I will be excited for you. From what you wrote here of COURSE your wedding ceremony isn't getting you all twittery and excited. I think people's suggestions of having a second informal party back in the states is what you need to do. At my wedding we had a second reception on the actual day of the wedding. First reception was the fussy, formal, fancy clothes wearing meal. It was very nice. BUT! After that we had "The Second Reception". We encouraged all of our guests to change in to comfortable clothes (which the majority of them did), we plunked out a bunch of nibbly finger foods, and put out a couple bins of beer and liquor around. It was fantastic. And then we ended The Second Reception (and the whole wedding day) with some fireworks my dad bought at Costco. They were set off by my brother-in-law and his sons. It was an awesome thing. Let me tell you, The Second Reception was the highlight of our wedding day. It was just comfortable and social and easy. Everyone cast off the formal tone of most weddings and it became just a really great party. My husband and I weren't the focus, no big wedding-y elements apart from the fact that my husband was still wearing his tux and I was still wearing my dress (though I changed in to my neon sneakers for comfort).

So I highly HIGHLY recommend having a second reception. We had ours the same day directly following the formal stuff, but you don't need to. You should have yours when you get back from India. You aren't getting to do much of the wedding planning, so plan The Second Reception instead! You don't need to go all crazy and spend a billion. Make it fun. Make it YOU. Find small things that have meaning and incorporate them. (For example, my husband is obsessed with popcorn and popcorn makers, so at our Second Reception we had bags of popcorn for everyone. Cheap, but delicious and meaningful.) When it comes down to it a wedding is just a party anyway, so have your party the way you want it. If you want you can make some symbolic gesture with your husband during the Second Reception as a sort of second ceremony. Exchange t-shirts. Set off fireworks. Whatever. The second reception is what you want and need. I frankly would be tempted to celebrate my wedding day as the date of the second reception since that is the one that will probably mean the most to you and your husband.

Re. the "we've been together more than eight years, and it doesn't feel like a huge deal any more" thing. Everyone told me how it is "just a piece of paper" but it absolutely wasn't. I can tell you that for me there was a HUGE difference in how I feel and how our life together feels. The same kind of difference when you OWN a house vs RENT a house. Yes, your day to day life doesn't really change, but things just seem a bit different (in a good way!). I have moments when I am looking at my husband and it hits me that we are together, forever (barring any major changes) and man is that awesome. Knowing the man I love openly committed the rest of his life to me is god damned awesome, and I know he feels the same way about me. It is very fun.

And if at the end of the day everything does feel exactly the same after you're married, that's okay too! You're happy and in love with your fiance. Having things be the same once you're married goes in the "Win" column.

I also suggest starting a tradition on the day of your wedding. My husband and I started a "What did you like today?" talk every night before bed. It was his idea and I love it. We each tell the other person what happened that day that we liked, acknowledging the things the other had done for them, etc. Love love love "What did you like today".
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 10:51 AM on March 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

I've said this before many times, and I'll repeat it here, at the end of the day, the goal is that you will be married. No matter what happens leading up to, during, and after the ceremony, you will be married to the person with whom you wish to spend the rest of your life. Goal accomplished. The best part is the REST OF YOUR LIFE with your spouse. :)

That being said, I totally agree about having the party back in the US with your friends to celebrate the event. Your parents get what they want and you guys get a great party.

(FWIW, mrblurker and I did it at the courthouse without a big ceremony, and it relieved a lot of wedding-prep-stress from our lives. This April will be 24 blissful years.)

posted by blurker at 10:53 AM on March 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Before you go (or on your way) to India could you go somewhere really wonderful for a few days and have a pre-wedding romantic honeymoon? Then once you get back to the US have a big party with all your friends.
posted by mareli at 11:26 AM on March 18, 2014

Following on mareli's idea, nip off to the courthouse just you two and get married right before the flight! Then you will have something to giggle about the whole way there.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 11:47 AM on March 18, 2014

I think it's inevitable that you'll need to suffer through the wedding your parents have planned. Your participation seems more for their sake than anything. But that doesn't mean you can't have 2 weddings - 1 for parents/family and 1 that's more playful and fun, for friends.

I attended a wedding this past weekend and it was essentially a large party with a small ceremony where the grooms exchanged vows in front of friends. It was a lot of fun and wasn't expensive since friends pitched in (brought food/drinks or donated a few bucks). This may be an option for you?
posted by stubbehtail at 11:51 AM on March 18, 2014

I would suggest having a small party or get-together in the US for your US friends in addition to the official wedding in India. I'm not sure why having a celebration of your marriage after the actual wedding would invalidate the actual "ceremony" your family is planning. Plus, you could schedule something more celebratory, more meaningful to the two of you, and something your US friends could attend. You don't have to sign a document at the celebration itself in order to celebrate your nuptuals.

The Indian wedding sounds like a very ho-hum non-ceremony to me, and meaningful to no one but your parents and the legal system. It's nothing more than a family/cultural obligation, and you'll probably have to take one for the team with it.

Are there faculty jobs outside your fiancé's city you could apply to? What's your reasonable commuting distance? Would you consider expanding it?

Could you both move to somewhere in the middle where you'd both be commuting an hour? I commute an hour and 15 minutes each way. While there are certainly ways it sucks, there are certain advantages ("reading" lots of audiobooks, for one).
posted by tckma at 12:13 PM on March 18, 2014

No suggestions as to how to celebrate, but I had a "meh" wedding. My mum was pretty adamant that she wanted things her way: "This is my day; you and Fiancé are just there to make up the numbers" is a direct quote. It was a small, quiet affair -- which was completely fine by us; we didn't want more than a handful of people -- but was almost entirely our parents' friends and some family. MrA and I had 4 of our own friends out of 40+ guests. We moved across the country two days after the wedding and I didn't see our wedding pictures for months and then left them with my parents. It was a day I don't remember with much pleasure or much of anything, really.

We did get a professional portrait done in dressy, but not wedding, clothes after we moved and about 2 months after the ceremony. We consider that our "wedding" picture. We look relaxed and happy, something that wasn't in the official pictures. We didn't do a honeymoon or party of our own as we were both undergrads and too poor.

However, the wedding was just one day, and 12,780 days later (give or take) we will be celebrating our 35th anniversary this summer. We've not made plans yet, but it will be exactly what we want.
posted by angiep at 12:23 PM on March 18, 2014

For immigration reasons, I married my husband on short notice with just a couple friends as witnesses. No family, no dress, no planning, no ceremonial anything. We were doing it so we could get a spousal visa, and we'd been together about seven years before the event, and we were planning to do a "real" ceremony later. So we thought we would feel like this courthouse thing was a bureaucratic non-event, but it turned out to be really meaningful to both of us.

We're still going to do a party for our families, but our super-basic, super-cheap courthouse wedding was a real thing despite our expectations. I don't know if it's this way for everyone, but at least for us, changing our legal status carried a weight greater than we expected.

(And then we didn't move in together immediately, because we still had the spousal visa to process. So I get how that is. My husband and I joke that we have two anniversaries, one for the wedding and one for the day I finally arrived at his house to stay.)

I guess what I'm saying is that the spiritual moment can be there even if you didn't plan for it. It's not a function of a bunch of party planning, but comes from the seriousness of what you're doing in that moment.

Being married turns out to be excellent also.
posted by shattersock at 3:28 PM on March 18, 2014

Your details are similar to mine (academics, absence of a romantic proposal, parents arranging the wedding in the "home country") except I didn't have the stress of a job search since we're a few years out from finishing our PhDs. The not-so-gory details of my August 2013 wedding I turned into a post at A Practical Wedding. So yes, on one level I think you should be delighted that you are avoiding so much of the fuss and stress of planning a wedding.

I agree with the folks that the being married part is surprisingly special feeling even if the wedding itself feels like an out of body experience you cannot control. Things that helped make the process or prospect of getting married more fun included 1) having a bicoastal bachelorette picnic tour because hey, if I have an extended summer vacation as a grad student, then by golly I will take my show on the road and get to celebrate with friends everywhere 2) having a post-wedding party in park with some friends who toasted us and then we toasted them 3) having a one-month anniversary dinner after all the hoopla had faded. We dressed up in matching outfits given to us by one of our Korean friends (Korea and the matching couple outfits is really something marvelous) and went to the Cheesecake Factory and were dorks.

Something we didn't do but was amusing at least in theory was getting an elaborate photo shoot. I didn't want one of those in-studio glamour shots where you have three dress changes and there's a giant swan in half the pictures, but I was actually game for having a photographer follow us to some of our spots (which were horribly mundane things like the Family Mart convenience store we used to drink in front of or the student cafeteria) and take portraits. Maybe that's something you can do where you are now, before the wedding?
posted by spamandkimchi at 4:28 PM on March 18, 2014

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