Joel and I are both what I like to call "extroverted introverts". While we both do just fine on public display, mingling with unfamiliar faces, entertaining crowds, and such- we are not only the type of people who feel more comfortable among small groups, but there are a very limited number of people that we feel close to.
Because of this, Joel's initial idea of "Wedding Party of The Century" soon ran its course. When it comes down to it, we really want to spend the weekend celebrating with the people we love most.
That all sounds perfectly reasonable, but its beginning to be much more difficult that I had originally thought. For the ceremony in particular, I had really hoped to avoid that feeling of "I have to invite so-and-so, even though they hardly know me, but they'd get pissed if I didn't and I'll never hear the end of it from the people I'm close to" from creeping into any part of our wedding- but most especially our ceremony.
"25 people," I said, "including us. Family only."
I have a mere five family members that I believe will be able to attend. The issue is that Joel comes from a very unique family that is simply not as compact as mine- which is none of his fault, but it leaves this grey area of members that really don't know us but may possibly throw a fit if we don't invite them.
To complicate matters more, we've both been blessed to forge "family" relationships with people who are not blood related- so what do you do when your "technically not family" is closer than your "technically are family"?
"Invite them all!" some people would say, but there is a problem with this, too. Not only would it turn into something resembling My Big Fat Greek Wedding, but after a heart-to-heart last night of what this ceremony really means to us...well...it just leaves things rather awkward. The conversation went something like the following, so offer your advice as you will:
"Joel, how do you imagine this ceremony going?" I gingerly approach the topic. We've tried to discuss it before but we just end up fighting about who should be there and how the crap we are going to feed them all. I thought, perhaps, a circular way around this topic might shed some light on things.
"Oh, I don't know."
"Well, we aren't exactly going to be in a church with a string quartet and a parade of bridesmaids. So, what were you thinking?"
"I don't know, I guess we'll have to think about it." later, he implies.
"Does your family have any traditions you'd like to include?"
He shakes his head.
"Are there any traditions you'd like to start, things you've heard about that you always thought were cool?"
"We could parachute down into the courtyard." He offers.
"Maybe for the party...I was thinking the ceremony would be a bit more reverent."
"What do you see as the main purpose...or function...of the ceremony on Friday?....for instance, I really see this as something that's more for others than for us?"
"What do you mean? Don't you want to have a ceremony?"
"Of course, yes, but...well...it's a little like this: when I graduated college, the last thing in the world I wanted to do was walk. I had just been through a hellish finals week, with departments stringing me along as to if I actually was going to graduate early or not, I had no sleep...but my mom wouldn't hear of me skipping the cap and gown thing. It was only during the ceremony that I realized that this ceremony meant a lot to her and my dad.
She had suffered through years of me calling her to cry because some professor gave me a bad grade, calling her to cry because I messed up a solo in a dress rehearsal, calling her to cry because I took 21 credit hours and thought I was going to die. Damned if she wasn't at least half as stressed as I was during those college years.
It was only when I was all dressed up, waiting in a line of some-hundred people, that I realized this was my way to share what we had accomplished with her. Sometimes, you need a photo of your little girl in a funny square hat to show off- and my mom does deserve to have the proud momma moment."
Joel nods, "That makes a lot of sense. After all, I've spent two years convincing you that I love you- and we're going to have the rest of our lives together for us to show it to each other...it's not as if the ceremony..."
"Your vows will probably make me cry, but it's not as if whatever you say at the ceremony is there to convince me that this is a good idea. We already know we want to be with each other."
"So...the ceremony is for other people- but not in a 'we're just doing this because they want us' way."
"Not at all!"
"This is a chance show the people who have raised us, shaped us, and gotten us to this point how thankful we are to have them in our lives."
He says, "It makes a lot of sense when you look at it like that- we both have family who has loved us through more than anyone may ever know. The ceremony is a way to share what we've accomplished so far, to promise each other and everyone else that we'll work hard to do the right things, and to let them know how we feel about them. There may not be another time in our lives where we'll be able to thank everyone and tell them what they mean to us in front of the other people who mean a lot to us."
We've spoken of it all a little more since this conversation, and the idea of really letting it be a ceremony about who has made this amazing thing- this amazing thing of Joel and I starting a family together- possible...
....well, you can see where such heartfelt emotions may not be appropriate in a crowd that includes people who you don't know well enough to be heartfelt about. All of the sudden, you've made a five minute speech to everyone you love except that one family member you haven't spoken to in ten years....that's just awkward.
Although Joel did not like my initial ceremony invite list, he has yet to change it to suit him. Saying, "We'll invite only those who are close to us" is a lot more difficult than doing that.
He is also a little miffed because I don't want to throw a special dance party immediately following the ceremony so we can have a "first dance" for all of family. I told him, the dance party is on Saturday- but he's strangely persistent about the "first dance" concept. I'll have to investigate the origins of that further at another time.