On Weddings and Perfection

Part 3 in the On Weddings series. Part 1 available here, and Part 2 available here.

There is a strange need throughout a wedding—before, during, and after—for the event to be perfect. What 'perfect' is varies by person, of course, but it often has to do with how well the bride's desires were met. I spoke with someone recently who considers a wedding to be good or successful dependent on whether the bride thought it was perfect.

When planning my wedding, I felt this. Almost everyone involved wanted to ensure I had exactly what I wanted (or what they believed I wanted). And I am so grateful for that; I am so very loved.

But with such love came pressure. Pressure to be perfect. Pressure to have everything I wanted. It was no longer an option.
You must have everything you want. There is no other way.
I wasn’t looking for perfection. Not by social standards, and not by my standards. I couldn’t articulate it then, not with everyone asking me, “Is this what you want? You should have what you want.” I never knew how to respond, for two reasons:
  1. The dream wedding, what I wanted, really, was unattainable. My pragmatic self was okay with that, and I really, really needed everyone else to be okay with that, too. (By ‘be okay with that,’ I mean: not suggesting that we attempt the dream wedding for 0.1% of the price.)
  2. The things I wanted that were attainable were intangible and hard to articulate then. I wanted stewardship. I wanted community. I wanted authenticity. (You cannot have those things in the same room with perfection, if we are to wax philosophical.)
There was immense pressure to be perfect—my version of perfect, but still perfect. Given that no one had ten million dollars laying around, and given that authenticity often looks like extreme imperfection, this was a problem.

If someone’s idea of my wedding’s success is how well it met my standards of perfection, then my wedding was an utter failure. Because it was drastically imperfect. Sometimes by choice---I didn’t take anyone up on their offers to pay for my dream dress (which I never found, by the way). Sometimes imperfection was forced upon me, such as our unnecessary move indoors under alleged threat of rain.

When people tell me that they judge a wedding based on the bride’s opinion of its perfection, I bring up the rain. The way none of my carefully curated signs were of use in the hall where we said our vows. How the photography would have likely been better since our photographer prefers natural light (although it was still lovely). How our youth group friends worked so hard to decorate the outdoor arbor, and that work went mostly to waste.

The response is consistently something along the lines of, “Well, now it’s a great story!” Or, “Well, everything worked out. I was there, and it went great!”

True responses, and I couldn’t agree more. But we must simultaneously acknowledge that the move indoors added “imperfection” to the wedding. If it had been perfect by my standards before, it was no longer. For those who judge my wedding by whether I thought it perfect, the move indoors was the death knell of that perfection.

There were so many things in the wedding day that went wrong. So many things I regret. So many things that didn’t go how I planned (or maybe they did go how I planned, and I wish they hadn’t). So many things I still wrestle with, trying to let go. DH and I made a list of over 50 things that did not go as we’d hoped. My wedding was not perfect.

The dress was not perfect. The venue was not perfect. The photographer was not perfect. The DJ was not perfect. The makeup was not perfect (but before anyone jumps to conclusions, it was intended to be as dramatic as it was). The guest list was not perfect. The timeline was not perfect. Some of these things I regret; some I don’t.

My favorite moment of the wedding was our first kiss as husband and wife. I was wearing tons of makeup, and, relevant here, tons of lipstick/gloss—layers and layers. I don’t do so normally, and to jump into such a thing was probably a mistake. (I have a half-suspicion that I spent the night with red all over my teeth and our photographer just edited it out.)

For our first kiss as man and wife, DH kissed my mouth and then my jaw. Deep, dark, dramatic lip color went everywhere.

It’s my favorite moment of the wedding day. It paused the painfully "perfect" agenda of the day for a moment when everyone laughed together. For a moment, my own glorious imperfection--my lipstick naivete--shined through. I didn’t have to fake bridal perfection.

For just a couple minutes, we were all off-script. DH’s dad came through with a handkerchief. DH cleaned up my face, and then I went to work on his so that he didn’t walk back down the aisle with a lipstick nosebleed. We made a mess and cleaned it up in front of everyone.

Can we abandon this need for weddings to be perfect and/or for the bride to think them perfect? Why bring perfection into it at all? The truth is, most of us won’t have the money (or exceedingly compliant relations) to pull off the perfect wedding that we want. But we can have weddings that align with our values. We can have weddings full of authenticity and fun, community and consecration.

Whether you are part of the wedding or a guest, I implore you to measure its success by something besides perfection. Perfection is almost by definition unattainable, but it’s also not necessary when it comes to a day dedicated to commitment and celebration. Let’s measure what counts.

Photography by Christina Hastings Photography


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