I’ve known for a long time that I wanted to get married, though not in the way the movies lead you to expect I might. I wasn’t one of those little girls that dreamed of her big day, planning out the finer details of her dress, her flowers, her first dance without even knowing who the groom would be. I wasn’t even a die hard romantic who gushed over fairy tales and slushy movies. No, I’ve never really been a believer in the traditional hearts and rainbows version of love. But as I grew up and entered adulthood the idea of getting married was one that resonated. Never the most confident of girls, that idea of being ‘picked’ by someone, above everyone else, was what I wanted more than anything. I wanted to have a partner for life. A constant friend and confidant, someone who would be there no matter what. I wanted to take care of someone and have them take care of me. It wasn’t about having a wedding. It was all about having a marriage, for me. That isn’t to say though, that I didn’t think about my wedding. In fact, what my wedding will be like has taken up plenty of space in my thoughts, and not always for the reasons you’d expect…
I always assumed I would be married by now. I certainly thought I would be married before I had children – not because of any moral or religious beliefs but simply because that order made sense to me. Having a child with someone is quite literally the biggest commitment you can make in life, so I wouldn’t choose to have a child with someone I didn’t want to marry. I also appreciated the thought of someone having openly declared their intent to be with me for the rest of my life before I entered into the crazy ups and downs of parenthood, which I know some of you will think daft – because people can lie and people can change thier minds – but still, it was a comforting thought to me somehow. Motherhood was something I craved above all else and I wanted to experience that with someone as ready and willing as me to take on that challenge. I just couldn’t bear the thought of telling a partner I was pregnant and having it met with any response other than pure joy. So I focused instead on finding that right person before any of the rest of it could even be a consideration. And as you know, after a few false starts, it all came good. Here I am, much later than expected, but engaged to a wonderful man. I found my partner for life, we’ve built ourselves a wonderful home and I’m a mother now, to an amazing little boy. But still not a wife. And not for want of trying – today we should have been getting hitched with all my favourite people in the world there to witness it, but instead I’m sat here writing this as Dan takes Bailey out for a walk with the dog. It’s not the first time either – this is the second of our cancelled wedding dates. Back on November 28th we spent the day drinking fizz in our glad rags at home with a takeaway, lamenting what should have been the happiest day of our lives. Thanks, Covid! I’m one of many – so many people have had the heartache of having to postpone or cancel their plans. But there is a little more going on for me than just the loss of my big day.
I made some crappy choices on this journey, but eventually, not long after turning thirty, I thought my time had come. I had been in a happy relationship for a long time, had a ring on my finger and had allowed thoughts of the big day to take centre stage in my mind. But wedding planning, as it turned out, was not as fun as I thought it would be. I am not the ‘organizer’ in my circle. I have social anxiety and hate having to be the decision maker. I find negotiating painful. And the thought of walking down the aisle in front of everyone, frankly, terrifies me. Unfortunately though I had found myself embarking on this task with a partner who very much expected the stereotypical experience of wedding planning – e.g, the bride does it all and the groom just turns up on the day and has a jolly old time. It should have rang alarm bells that we were mismatched early on to be fair, but somehow a wedding had begun to take form. We had a date, we’d found a venue I was completely in love with, and I had a beautifully curated collection of pins on a Pinterest board. Finally I allowed myself to imagine what that day would look like, and it was pretty awesome, albeit a cookie cutter wedding straight out of a magazine. That’s about as far as it went though, as that wedding was not meant to be, and that had a big impact on me. Obviously a long, once loving relationship coming to an end is always painful, but it wasn’t just the relationship that ended for me, it was a whole version of a life. Something about the act of calling off a wedding tainted the whole thing. I felt that by getting it wrong this time I’d ruined my chances of getting that big day I’d finally allowed myself to imagine. I worried that getting engaged again wouldn’t feel the same. That I’d feel like a fraud having a Hen Party. That after finding my dream venue once I’d have to completely reimagine things – I couldn’t possibly get married in the same place, could I? Have the same flowers? The same colour for the bridesmaids? What about that beautiful dress I’d pictured? The dreams I’d cultivated disintegrated before my eyes and the thought of having to start all over again left me exhausted. It just took all of the shine off, and for a while I gave up on the idea, assuming if the time came again I’d opt to elope or have a quickie ceremony and be done with it.
Thankfully, this wasn’t the case. I fell in love again and learned that there was still magic to be experienced. It could be just as perfect the second time around, in fact, better. My second engagement was so much more than just a romantic occasion – it was the falling into place of everything, and I soon found that planning a wedding with a person as equally invested as you was a completely different experience. There was a slight hitch though. That aforementioned desire to be a mother was an itch we felt needed to be scratched sooner rather than later given our age, so Bailey came along first, and already the vision I’d once had of my wedding day had slipped slightly. I guess I’d assumed it would be a bit of a last hurrah, a very raucous, boozy affair that would mark the end of our young and carefree days, but now I’d come to accept it would be a little different. It was still very much a day to look forward to though, maybe a little less rowdy and a little more family focused, but I could never be sad about the idea of Bailey getting to share that special time with us, and once he was a few months old we got back to planning. I needn’t have worried about ‘stealing’ elements from my old wedding plans – this time the ideas just flowed and were a natural combination of the two of us. Before long we found my dream venue – similar in style to the first one but that little bit better – booked a date and got busy creating a day that was so personal to us as a couple. It felt a bit too good to be true, and in the end it was, of course, as we all know what came next…
We first began to suspect we may need to rethink things fairly early on in the Covid crisis. At the time the world still seemed to believe that this would all be over in a matter of months, but we both felt a creeping uneasiness as we edged towards the Summer without any real end in sight. Even as things began to reopen and some semblance of ‘normal’ life resumed we couldn’t shake the feeling that it was a little too optimistic to believe that come November we’d be able to have more than 100 people in a room together, so when little pices of the plan began to fall through we took it as a sign and chose to postpone until March. It didn’t feel like too big a hardship at the time. We’d only booked our date a week or two before the first lockdown was announced, and while we were excited about how things were progressing we hadn’t really had enough time to get used to the fact it was all real, and since we hadn’t lost any money or had to cancel short notice we couldn’t help but feel we were the lucky ones in all of this. The only thing that had really changed in our minds was that what was once a Winter wedding would now be a Spring one, but since nothing outside the actual venue had been set in stone yet, this didn’t really affect anything. It just meant we had a little longer to wait, but let’s face it, I’d kind of gotten used to waiting by now! A few more months was nothing in the grand scheme of things.
The second wave changed everything though, and when we realised our second date was also looking increasingly unlikely we had some tough decisions to make. It was easy to feel sometimes that life had been on pause while this pandemic raged on, but the truth was, life was hurtling along at the same old pace it always had. I was closer to 40 now than 35, and we still had unfinished business on the kids front – we both felt we’d like to have more than one, and the window of time we had to see if we could make that a reality was rapidly getting smaller so once again we had to start shuffling our priorities around, and it wasn’t quite so easy this time. Having one child had already thrown it’s own set of complications into the mix, but trying to plan around two – and when that second might come – seemed impossible. We could throw the Wedding down the line and crack on with baby number two straight away, but I wasn’t quite in a place where I was ready to consider being pregnant again yet, and I really just wanted to be his wife already. Plus, the longer we continued in this unmarried state, the more the concept of a big white wedding began to seem a little ridiculous to me. Was I really going to be comfortable playing the blushing bride at 40 with two kids in tow? Wouldn’t I feel a bit daft promising to spend my life with someone I’d basically already given everything to? ‘Guess what guys, we’ve decided we want to be together!’ ‘Well, duh…!’ I could imagine people saying. So what else could we do? We could just postpone again short term and see what happened, accepting I may be pregnant on the day, but I knew I didn’t really want that, and equally I didn’t feel like waiting at least another year before trying for a baby was a good idea either so it became a bit of a now or never kind of decision. And of course, we could scrap the plans entirely and start from scratch, planning a very small affair that was more likely to pass Covid restrictions instead, but I really didn’t want to give up on that wonderful day we’d organised, and that’s when I realised my feelings about weddings and marriage in general had completely changed without me even realising. I used to see the wedding as a day I had to get throughin order to have a marriage, but after the obstacles we’d overcome to be together, becoming parents and surviving lockdown life – we were already there. We are already that partnership I’d always dreamed of. He is my constant friend and confidant. He is there for me no matter what. I take care of him and he takes care of me. We are already married in all but name, and it’s now the wedding that has become the important part to me. It used to be what came after the wedding that I looked forward to, but that had turned on it’s head entirely. I realised that what I really wanted was to celebrate this fact with everyone I love the most, and so we knew in our hearts that a halfway house, where we had to pick and choose just who of our favourite people we could have there with us, wasn’t an option, and the decision was made. We cancelled the date, and we didn’t book another one in.
So I’m not getting the wedding I thought I wanted. But I’m ok with it. Not thrilled, by any stretch, but ok. Of course I would much prefer that Covid hadn’t happened and I was writing this as a married woman ready to start thinking about another baby on her own time without the loud ticking of a clock in her ear, but it is what it is. We still intend on seeing through our plans, with the same venue and the same ideas we had for the day, but we don’t know when that will be, and I’ve come to terms with the fact it will be very different to anything I’d have thought I’d get once upon a time. It won’t be a last hurrah – we love a drink and a get together but our crazy partying days are well and truly behind us now. We won’t be love’s young dream, embarking on a new life together – we already have that life and we improve on it every day. There will be speeches and vows made, but we won’t be declaring our intentions to stick together forever – we commited to that when our little boy came into the world. It will be a magical day though, filled with love. It will be our chance to celebrate our (hopefully a little bigger) family with the friends and family who have loved, supported us and made us who we are today. And in a strange way it makes sense that it’s all ended up backwards, because nothing about the way we came to be was straighforward or expected!
Our time will come, and I can’t wait.
Photos c/o Little Bird Photography