Advice for Summer Brides: Stop Fretting over the Wedding and Prepare for Marriage

Advice for Summer Brides: Stop Fretting over the Wedding and Prepare for Marriage

At 18, I walked into his restaurant with swagger in each step, dreams in my eyes and sass on my tongue.

Jeff was supposed to be yet another man whom I would tease and watch stumble over my flirtatious overtures.

Instead, he bantered with me and accepted my challenge.

The story of my 15-year marriage will never inspire a big screen movie release, nor will it appear on the Hallmark channel. And that's why my marriage works.

We avoid scene-stealing fights on grand staircases.

No one smashes heirloom vases on the marble floor.

We've certainly never been so overwrought with anger and passion that he ripped off my clothes and ravaged me over the balcony railing while I hit and slapped him.

Nope, our house has a staircase tucked off of a main hallway, very narrow and dimly lit, which is not at all conducive to grandiose declarations and posturing.

Clutter suffocates me and overwhelms my senses, so no heirloom anything resides in my house, and marble floors are too expensive, too cold and too hard for my home.

I prefer to keep my anger and passion separate. A household filled with kids doesn't really afford my husband and I much time to do anything over a balcony railing - assuming we even had a balcony.

Seventeen years ago, Jeff was my waiter in a long-ago closed downtown Naperville restaurant. I was just a cocky teen, hoping to con an older guy into serving me some alcohol.

While I didn't stand a chance of getting served alcohol by my waiter-with-a-law-degree, I did get asked on a date.

As a child of divorce, I didn't want to get married. I certainly didn't ever imagine that I would get married at 20 and have three children before I turned 30.

And then I met Jeff.

We fell in love during the summer of 1995 and were married in May of 1997.

In front of all of our friends and family, we said our marriage vows. However, it was the unspoken vows we made to each other in our hearts that have sustained us.

The ceremony was just a pretty formality and expensive party, more for our friends and family than for either of us.

It was fun, but after a decade and a half of marriage, my memory is fuzzy. Fifteen years later, the specific details simply don't matter.

Any idiot can buy a ring and say "I do." Those words don't mean anything unless they have substance, promise, respect, friendship and real commitment behind them.

Our journey hasn't always been easy. We've stumbled and tripped.

A couple of times, we've fallen so far off course I worried we wouldn't find our way back home, to each other.

But we did. We always do and we always will.

Jeff is my North. Whenever I'm lost, I close my eyes and my heart leads me directly back to him.

He balances my crazy. His calm soothes my chaos. His dry humor diffuses even the most difficult situations.

Our relationship thrives in the space between these lines, in the quiet and peaceful stillness of companionship.

It flourishes in each glance across a raucous dinner table, each time his hand brushes mine.

Marriage is the most difficult thing I've ever done.

If you are fortunate, it will be the most difficult thing you ever do. And the most rewarding.

It is not for the hesitant nor the weak.

I guarantee that marriage will test you and frustrate you.

So stop fretting over all of the silly wedding details. Put down your binder filled with seating charts and check lists.

Take some time to write down all of the reasons that you love him/her. (You should save this list. You'll want to pull it out after your first fight as a married couple.)

Relax and slow down. It is only a wedding, one of the many days in your decades of marriage.

May you enjoy the friends, the laughter, the excitement.

Above all, don't forget to seek out those moments of real connection with your spouse on the day of your wedding and all the days of your marriage.

Those stolen looks and secret smiles and whispered promises . . . those moments will sustain you. Those moments will heal you and connect you in ways no ceremony ever will.

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  • Beautifully told, Crystal! Great advice, too....

  • In reply to Alison Moran:

    Thank you so much, Alison! I wish that I would have slowed down and really enjoyed my wedding day. Hopefully, someone will read this, take a breath and just relax. Save all that energy for the marriage!

  • My husband and I have always felt that the planning of the wedding became bigger than the marriage itself with most people. We've been married 30 years and even when we were planning our wedding, we talked about our life together beyond the party.

    This was so beautifully written! I'm going to bookmark it and save it and give it to the next couple I know in their wedding card.

  • In reply to siblingless:

    Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment on my post. I really appreciate your lovely compliment, and I am honored that you bookmarked this post and plan to print it to put in a wedding card! Wow!

    I couldn't agree more! I've met so many brides with large, list-filled binders with fabric swatches and magazine cut-outs of that perfect wedding table centerpiece. Inevitably, something goes wrong on that day, and I've consoled many friends, who are devastated over the wrong napkin color or melted candle and worried that it "ruined" their perfect day. I wish that more couples would follow your example and focus on a life together after the wedding day.

    Congratulations on 30 years together! May you enjoy many, many more!

  • I love this, Crystal.

    I always remember this huge fight my mom and I had over the tablecloths for our wedding. If I asked any of the 200 guests at my wedding - I doubt any of them would remember what the tablecloths looked like (my husband included).

    I hope our guests remember the love they felt at our wedding.

  • In reply to Yoga Mom:

    Thank you so much for your lovely comment! I really appreciate it!

    I laughed when I read about your fight over the tablecloths because I can totally relate to it! While I love my mother and truly appreciate all of her help with my own wedding, I always joke that my wedding was more for my mother than for anyone else.

    I wish you decades of love, joy and laughter in your marriage.

  • As a dude, this post kinda scares me...

  • In reply to gwill:

    Be afraid. Be very afraid.

    No, I'm just kidding! Thank you so much for reading my post, and I wish you all the best!

  • A great blog and so true, I've been married a few years so the wedding preparation memories are still fresh yet now dealing with the day to day hard work of marriage.

    I wish more people would concentrate on life after the honeymoon and festivities because that's when for better or worse really begins.

    No regrets though.....

    Again thanks for a beautiful yet authentic blog.

  • In reply to Charles W. Johnson:

    Thank you so very much for your kind words and for reading my blog and commenting on this post! I sincerely appreciate it!

    I wish you many years of wedded bliss and some fantastic passion-filled balcony embraces without any of the anger!

  • Great post, Crystal! It's so easy to get caught up in the dress, the flowers, the food, and all the rest that you forget about why you are getting married in the first place. Wedding planning caused such stress that my parents and my husbands parents have not been on speaking terms in 10 years. That has made my child's baptism, birthday parties, and other milestones very difficult for me to handle/plan. This is a great piece and should be handed to couples as soon as they are engaged!

  • In reply to Amanda:

    Thanks, Amanda! It saddens me to read of your own experience. Unfortunately, I know of others with similar experiences. Truthfully, I did have one freak out with my MIL right before the wedding. She made an off-handed remark about how Jeff always wanted to marry a girl with long hair. I freaked out & walked into a cheap strip mall salon and chopped off all of my hair. I still can't believe that I did that!

  • Wow Crystal this was beautiful and honestly almost brought me to tears. Ok I'm a little bit of a sap but also b/c I wish I would've gotten this advice a little earlier. I recently got married (about 3 wks ago). I also found love and marriage when I was not expecting it. I love my husband to the fullest and it's great but I am starting to understand what all my elders would say about patience and marriage being something you have to work at. We get along great and communicate well but the stress of wedding planning still haunts me and feels too new. It was a lot of work and of course not everything went as planned. The point was we got married and we are happy. it's nice to know that someone, like yourself, is telling it real and like it is. I can admit I still sometimes think everything is going to be a fairytale (it's not my fault-I grew up in Orlando next to Disney lol) and when it's not I get disappointed-even over little things. And it concerns me when everyone (esp. the media) put forth such unreal portrayals of relationships. I am working on the little things about myself and learning to work with him, so we have a happy, healthy relationship that works. :)

  • In reply to SharJar:

    Thank you so much for reading and for your sincere honesty! I really did think that marriage would be easy because dating him had been so fun and easy. It isn't.

    Sure, he is still my best friend and we do have fun together, but we do struggle sometimes. We both have to actively work on our relationship. I think sometimes that because I do feel so safe and secure in my marriage that I am not always kind to him when I am frustrated with other things and people. I am really working on this personal issue.

    I wish you and your husband many, many years of love, laughter, forgiveness and committment. It does take work, but it is oh, so worth it!

  • In reply to SharJar:

    You sound like a very thoughtful and sensitive woman. I have great hopes for someone who is smart enough to work on her own "little things". It's really the only thing you can change.

  • Great post - I have always said that the marriage matters more than the wedding. Something that is sometimes not really understood. My hubby of nearly 29 years and I eloped. Just us, one friend and the judge. While I did not get the fancy dress, I received something much more lasting - the commiment from my best friend, three wonderful children and the comfort of knowing there is always someone in my corner to help me through life. It has not been easy, and like you there were times when I thought we would not find our way, but I have always thought "how would I feel if he was not in my life?" and I realized I would miss him more than anything in the world. Put aside what is after all just one day, and ask yourself if we were to just elope would I still be happy? Could I live with that? If the answer is no, I think you need to rethink why you are getting married.
    Crystal - I wish you many, many more years of happiness.

  • In reply to mjt91964:

    Thank you so much for reading my post and for sharing your story. You wrote excellent questions for perspective brides/grooms to ask themselves.
    Thanks for your wishes and I extend the same to you and your husband: May your lives continue to be blessed with love and happiness.

  • Beautiful, honest writing about something close to all our hearts -- how to do marriage. It is posts like these that go into the inner life of an important subject that make the new world of blogging such a vital and useful addition to our lives.

  • In reply to Wordlvr:

    I sincerely appreciate your kind words in response to my post! Why, I do believe that you made me blush. Thank you!

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    Couldn't agree more!!! Our wedding was a mere 8 months ago & already the details are fuzzy. What I'll never forget is the extreme and overwhelming love for my husband I felt that day, and continue to feel every day. It's all about the marriage, the wedding is just details.

  • In reply to Jess Bedsole:

    Congratulations on your marriage!! You remember exactly what you should: the love you share with your husband. Marriage is work. Even after 15 years, my husband and I still have to work at it. Thankfully, we have learned when to press, when to walk away, when to forgive, and when to move closer to each other. Sometimes the answers are in the spaces between words, in the quiet morning moments before we fully awake, the crinkle around his eyes when he hands me a cup of coffee. May you and your husband find your moments and continue to discover the many nuances of life together - forever.

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