It’s not about the party. It’s about the partner.
It’s that season again: wedding season. Summer is synonymous with save-the-dates and gift registries and explaining to my husband why fatigue cargo shorts should not be worn, even if it is an outdoor ceremony.
For many, the wedding day is referred to as the BIG day; even still, the sheer magnitude of what two people are entering into is often overshadowed by seating arrangements, dessert options, and chicken versus beef. I have been a bride twice, so I am speaking from experience.
My first BIG day occurred in my early-20s. With two degrees under my belt, I was the bookish girl much smarter in a class lecture than in love. What does one do when they have mounting student loans, a college sweetheart adored by many, and no more ringing school bells? Wedding bells it is.
What’s nice about many first weddings are the obligatory checks parents dole out further fulfilling flights of fancy. In my case, guest lists grew like leaves on trees, family trees filled with third cousins I hadn’t seen since I was a tween. Finding the dress for the BIG day meant even bigger payment plans, and almost a year to the date of an ill-fated engagement the BIG day officially arrived.
I entered the church to the sounds of a live rendition of Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want To Miss a Thing.” I was followed by bridesmaids, two ring bearers, a flower girl, and even a praise dancer who had just been given word she would become a traveling performer with Cirque Du Soleil. (My girlfriends still won’t let me live down the dancer.) I entered the church a good 10 seconds before my train did because it was just that expansive of a train. While I was adorned in ivory and lace with a sea of onlookers, the stain glass window scattered rainbow silhouettes throughout the sanctuary. A lifetime of imagining my day as a bride had all led up to this moment. A picture perfect point in time, illustrated from the lenses of rose-colored glasses.
At the other end of the aisle stood a groom who, less than two years later, would decide he liked being a groom far more than being a husband. “At least we had a great party,” he’d say, and truth be told, we did. It was the party to rival all parties, but what good is a last dance when you’re dancing with the wrong partner?
My next BIG day came eight years later. I had exchanged the wide-eyed naivety of my 20s for an early-30s homage to real world maturity. Phrases like tenure and health insurance took on far greater significance, yet amidst my career climb, Cupid thankfully did not forget me.
I took immense pride in becoming one with my now-husband, yet on the heels of an “almost perfect” wedding do-over, I proved I still hadn’t learned a valuable life lesson: It’s less about the party and more about the partner.
This time, I did my own makeup, swooped my hair into a topknot, and adorned a Vera Wang gown I borrowed from a friend.
With the Pacific Ocean at our backs, we eloped in picturesque Santa Barbara for the “we did it our way” wedding of our dreams. The day was perfectly imperfect. Our only guests were a group of Swedish tourists and an aging officiant who struggled to properly pronounce my name.
For many months thereafter we lived in an impenetrable bubble of newlywed bliss. Sayings like “leave well enough alone” should have prevailed, but I stupidly disregarded the age-old adage. While unpacking boxes in our newly purchased home, something came over me. I decided to have a wedding reception to commemorate the BIG day we had already experienced.
This is the part of the lesson where another tried and true motto comes to mind: “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” A reception designed to announce to the world what I had already fortified in my heart was an unnecessary act of self-importance. But I wasn’t done living out that childhood fairytale.
But there would be no fairytale party this time. My stylist had an unexpected emergency and I was left to tackle my own reception look. The convection oven for the caterers caught on fire and unbeknownst to my guests they were steps away from potential harm. The food was subsequently late and my very vegetarian English department chair was given a dead animal to eat. The DJ forgot our favorite songs, and by the time guests were fed our reception venue was nearly closing. The party to rival all parties was slipping, spinning, swimming down stream and waterworks were welling up in my eyes. And then it hit me: “It’s not about the party. It’s about the partner.”
Nowadays we realize we don’t need a fancy reception to give us pause to party. Successfully getting the kids off to school is worthy of a little jig. Our living room is our dance floor where our 6-year-old often squeals and begs us not to kiss, but compels us to dance a wedding dance like the one in Beauty and the Beast. And so we dance, like crazy people.
And when summer comes around marking yet another wedding season, I make a wish for the brides and grooms twirling to their first dance. As they rejoice in the culmination of their BIG day, my wish for them is that the party doesn’t stop there.
Ryane Nicole Granados is a Los Angeles native and she earned her MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University, Los Angeles. Her work has been featured in the publications PaniK, On the Brink, and Dirty Chai. Furthermore, she teaches all levels of English at Golden West College and in addition to working on her first fiction novel she has authored her own student success manual entitled Tips from an Unlikely Valedictorian.