I know more about weddings than your average bear. I also know a few things about getting divorced, starting a company, and exquisitely f-ing up your life while your parents and everyone else look on in shock and horror. And because of my messy, complicated, and admittedly ridiculous experiences with all of these things, I may just be able to save you some time and trouble when it comes to planning your own wedding -- and more importantly, enjoying your marriage.
I got married on a sweltering hot day in July of 2008. Robert and I planned a big, expensive, perfect wedding. His family is Jewish, mine's a mix of Jewish/Catholic/Lunatic. So we had all the bells and whistles of your typical American Jewish wedding: 47 food stations at the cocktail hour, a five-course dinner, a 10-piece band, and 200 formally attired, obscenely sweaty guests.
Planning this affair was stressful and stretched all of our resources to the max. We argued with each other, we argued with our parents, I think I even argued with the flower girl, and she's 3 (but for the record, she was wrong). The wedding was beautiful, but by the time we rode off into the sunset, we were totally drained.
That experience inspired me to create Recycled Bride, an online marketplace where brides buy and sell gently used (and new) wedding dresses, decorations, and more. I wanted to help other couples avoid the stress of spending their future children's college fund on a wedding. Robert and I were excited to run Recycled Bride together. I couldn't dream of anything more picture-perfect than working with my new husband on our very own wedding business.
Within months, we began to develop what they call "irreconcilable differences". (We called it "F___ You!") We separated before our first anniversary, and divorced shortly thereafter. And there I was, secretly coping with an embarrassing divorce while writing about bridal bouquets, wedding dresses, and everyone else's happily ever after...on a website called Recycled Bride. It was like the universe was playing a cruel (but clever) joke on me, and I didn't know whether to laugh or cry at the irony. So I did lots of both.
After a while, Robert and I found our footing as friends, and even resumed running the business together. But the only thing harder to explain than a swift divorce (see: Kim Kardashian), is a fledgling business that takes up all your time, but is pre-revenue (that's a fancy web business word for "we weren't making any money then"). I was working crazy hours with no income, and needed a solution that wouldn't distract me from building the Recycled Bride empire. So I decided to earn extra cash by renting out my guest room to travelers.
My very first renter was Collin, a musician who wanted a cozy place to stay while he was in Los Angeles for a week. I pretended not to notice that he was cute. He pretended not to notice that I was pretending not to notice that he was cute. We fell easily into endless conversations, and then we fell in love. Collin extended his stay in California, and then extended it again, until we both realized that he was never leaving and he moved from the guest room into what's now "our room". Last week, we got married in a tiny romantic beach wedding with no guests.
The wedding was somewhat spontaneous, and we weren't well prepared. We didn't have a witness, so a random stranger on the beach ended up signing our marriage license. He may have been homeless. He may have been Mickey Rourke. We're still debating, but it's definitely one of those two. I wore stupid, pretty shoes, then twisted my ankle and stepped on Collin's toe the minute we hit the sand. During the ceremony, raging beach winds turned my hair into a ridiculous bird's nest. The wind was so loud, we couldn't even hear the officiant, so instead of repeating our vows, we said "What!?" a whole lot. Afterwards, we got drunk on champagne at our favorite neighborhood restaurant, I ripped my dress, and then we rode off on unicorns into the sunset. It was...perfect.
In an ironic and totally unexpected way, I got my happily ever after. But I had to stop believing in glossy photos and "perfect days" to get here. I have an amazing husband, an ex who's also a great friend and coworker, and a thriving business -- and none of it looks anything like I expected. So when I talk to brides who are fretting about the imperfections, the awkward moments, the feeling that they're somehow not living the "big day dream", I wish I could bundle up all of my experiences, good and bad, and magically infuse them into every bride's brain. Because I might have screwed up a lot (yes, a lot!), but I learned some good lessons. Here they are, in no particular order:
1. Your wedding, your marriage, and your life will be filled with flaws, mistakes, inappropriate jokes, and unexpected plot twists. Embrace the weirdness of it all, and learn to laugh at yourself.
2. Planning a wedding is just like starting a business. You have a budget and need rent space, hire employees, and create something that delights your customers/guests. If wedding planning with your partner isn't fun, you probably shouldn't start a business together.
3. Wedding photos lie. Especially the ones on blogs, in magazines, and on Facebook. Pretty does not equal happy, and happy is way more awesome.
4. Everybody has gross morning breath. That's kind of unrelated, but not necessarily. It just a thing that's true.
5. There are no signs or omens. If your dress arrives late or it rains on your wedding day, it has no bearing on the quality of the life that you build, every day, together.
Now go forth, and be married!