I haven't written about marriage in a long time because, as my husband Bill can attest, I am no expert. But there is one thing that I know about choosing the person that you're going to spend the rest of your life with -- whoever he or she is when you get married, what you see is what you get. You're not going to change them because of some vows and rings.
I recently planned a wedding for a couple who seemed perfectly in love during the wedding planning process -- they were in sync about what they wanted and the planning went more smoothly than most. There were zero red flags ahead of time, and I promise you, I have serious radar for that stuff. But oh boy, was my intuition off with this one.
The arrival went great, their friends loved the island, biobay was amazing and then they gathered for a pre-wedding luncheon on the Malecon (the Vieques version of a boardwalk). All hell broke loose in less than 15 minutes. First, one half of the couple was MIA -- apparently needed a walk to "cool off." Uh oh... not so good only two and a half hours pre-wedding ceremony, and in front of all of the guests. But then it got seriously interesting.
The missing half of the couple returned to join the group and sat down, and I gave them space to get comfy before I went to say hello. Bad call. Twenty seconds later, the drinks were flying. And I mean more than one drink. When I saw the first drink hurled, I actually waited a beat before intervening, in hopes that someone in their wedding group right there would step in. You are their friends and family, right? No luck. One drink wasn't enough to satisfy this person, he had to pick up every cup on the table and toss it at his intended (he didn't actually let go of the wine glasses -- just flung the contents). Wet but calm, the fiancé didn't retaliate. Mr. Angry went for another walk and, after a bit, so did I. Time to put an end to the nonsense. Wedding time was T-minus 90 minutes out, and I had a whole crew down on the beach getting things set up for a beautiful wedding. Fish or cut bait time.
After talking with one half of the couple, I got them to sit down on a bench together. They were fighting about a serious relationship issue -- once of them felt that the other treated them worse than their friends. I tried to give a supportive message about how we always treat the ones who love us unconditionally the worst -- but truth be told, I was thinking "you aren't really going to marry each other less than two hours after that scene are you?" Really? REALLY??? I made it clear that nobody HAD to get married that day, but that it was entirely their decision.
Oh yes, they did still want to get married. Apparently, one half of the couple always gets freaked out, aggressive, occasionally violent, and very verbally abusive when he's stressed out. Ummm... you know you don't have to marry this guy, right? But that's not my job. I'm just the wedding planner. I wish them a very happy life together, but I'd be lying if I didn't say I was worried.
I had another client couple early in my wedding career that scared the bejesus out of me when the groom practically went after the bride at their rehearsal beach party while her family watched -- and did nothing. It's the only time in my career that I took the bride aside and said "you don't have to do this." She said, "Yes, I do. And I don't want to discuss it." Okey dokey. I'm just the wedding planner. Their wedding was gorgeous. I'm afraid the divorce that followed a couple of years later wasn't nearly as pretty. But she's safe and happy now and that's all that matters.
So here's the deal engaged couples -- you are going to marry the same person who you are living with or consorting heavily with right now. He or she is not going to change dramatically when you get married (unless you count the unfortunate dramatic increase in the relaxed release of bodily emissions). If he is verbally or physically abusive pre-wedding, he's going to hit you eventually. If she's sucking down Pinot Grigio to chase her Xanax and Adderall combo, chances are you'll be picking up those prescriptions for her in the near future... not to mention opening or hiding the wine bottles eventually.
Moral of the story -- you're not going to change your spouse after you marry them. That wasn't part of the deal, good or bad. We all have faults. Bill sleeps too much. I never shut up and I leave my shoes all over the house (a trip hazard according to my husband). It's the serious character flaws you have to consider before you say I do. If there's something so bad you can't imagine living with it in 10 years, rethink this commitment before you make it.
I was pretty mortified about my clients' behavior in a public venue the other day and I made sure to email the proprietor my apologies. After spending quite a large chunk of the last few months making Season One of Wedding Island for TLC, I couldn't help but make our usual joke "where were the cameras when we needed them." I got a message back that made my night. Even though the TV cameras missed the Housewives-life display of bad behavior by my clients, the security cameras picked up the whole show. Just another clip to keep us entertained on a slow night in the off-season on Vieques Island.
Don't forget to check out me and my whole crew at Weddings in Vieques starting July 17th (sneak preview) and following every Thursday night on TLC's new reality show Wedding Island. If you want to see the commercial and have a laugh at me, you can check it out here.