Heavy on the Honeymoon, Light on the Wedding

Is it possible that I am missing some girly gene?

I have never dreamed about the white dress I would wear down the aisle on my wedding day.  In fact, the second time I tried on wedding dresses in a bridal boutique I just kept thinking how $1,600 would be way better spent on an airline ticket to another country than on a dress I would wear once.

For me, getting engaged was not followed by excited planning of venues and caterers, wedding dress shopping, and cake tastings, but mostly full-blown, little-kid-like tantrums and nervous breakdowns.  From the beginning, I was instantly overwhelmed by the idea of having a wedding.

At first, I thought the source of my anxiety was all about money.  We didn’t have thousands of dollars sitting aside and no one seemed excited to extend that type of money to us either.  I did attempt to move forward though as I’ve found there is usually a way to work things out despite being low on funds.  I dutifully scoured the Internet for venues, wedding dresses, and caterers and spoke to friends.  I mostly liked the idea of a back yard type wedding and looked at a few houses in the Florida Keys, but things quickly became disappointing.  Even trying to do a fairly simple, fifty person backyard wedding seemed like it would cost no less than $10,000 and that was without the cost of the best part, a good honey moon trip.

So instead of getting married that first year, we escaped to Costa Rica for an amazing weeklong trip where we did absolutely everything we wanted to for a whopping total of $2,500.  We hiked through the jungle, swam in waterfall pools, and sat in the rain at night in a hot river.  We listened to howler monkeys, rafted, and zip lined above the treetops.  The next year, after I reattempted to put together a wedding and became disheartened, we escaped again, but this time to Peru.  We ate ceviche, explored ruins, hiked part of the Inca trail, and learned a lot about altitude sickness, mainly that it sucks.  The grand total for our ten-day Peruvian adventure:  About $5,000.

This upcoming week will mark the ten happy years I have been with Michael and the third year in which we have been engaged.  While I have been through mostly downs about having a wedding, time has given me clarity.  I don’t want a wedding and never did.

While I thought it was money at first, I think the real source of my anxiety came from feeling pressured to have a wedding and to spend time, money, and energy on something that really just isn’t important to me.  From the moment I saw the ring, this pressure hit.  Oh my god, I’m supposed to do a wedding!  What does that look like?  Who has to be invited?  How much is that going to cost?  Who’s going to pay for this?  While I would like to say that the pressure to do a wedding mostly came from family, friends and society at large, a lot came from myself.   After all, isn’t having a wedding ceremony and reception what we are supposed to do when we want to get married?

Over the past three years, I have desperately searched Google for answers on something that was more “me.”  The results were disappointing.  Did all women want to have a full-blown ceremony in a church and a four-hour reception with bad chicken dinners and mediocre DJ’s that cost a small fortune?  Was the white dress the all-important thing when getting married?  The closest thing I could find to ditching this scenario was eloping or a courthouse wedding and for me, both weren’t overly enticing.

One story stuck though.  An acquaintance told me over lunch one day that for their wedding they went to the courthouse and then had an amazing dinner at an upscale restaurant complete with good wine.  They then took off to Europe for three months of traveling, dining, laughing and celebrating.  The three months in Europe got me.  I envied her experience and loved the idea, but instantly dreaded the disappointment I was sure I would face from some family if we were to do this.  She did mention that her mother cried when they broke the news of their nuptials.

Out of all the alternatives I’ve heard to doing a traditional wedding, three months of traveling with the one I love, seemed most “me” and most exciting.  How cool would it be to start a marriage off with a kick-ass, maybe once-in-a-lifetime trip to somewhere in the world?  While $10,000 is certainly a lot of money and is something that would be challenging for us to come up with in one lump sum, I’m certain it would be easier to come up with that amount to do something we love, like travel together, versus doing something we weren’t really excited about, like feeding a whole bunch of people for one day of frenzied celebration.  Plus, we’ve already experienced how awesome trips, although not three months in length, could be done on much less money than even a budget $10,000 wedding.

My most recent thinking has been, what cool experience could we have in lieu of a traditional wedding, whether we had as little to spend as $2,500 or as much to spend as $30,000+?  I had one friend tell me that they spent $60,000 on their wedding and my first thought was, “Holy crap!  Michael and I could have traveled around the world for at least a year on that!”  I’ve begun to wonder whether more couples either wished they had opted for something else over their traditional wedding or were desperately searching for some alternative they could get excited about.  I mean shit, doesn’t hiking Mount Kilimanjaro together sound way better than getting gawked out during a slow dance?  Well, it does to me at least.

While my alternative wedding isn’t planned yet, it is something that I can at least get excited about and want to plan, without getting my panties in a bunch.  Since I am starting nursing school in another month and one income seems better than two to get grants for school, I will continue to stay single on paper for at least a while longer.  Since I’ve finally let go of feeling pressured into having a traditional wedding this opens up some room for me to design something that is more to my liking.  While I still don’t know exactly what that looks like yet I do know one thing for sure.  It will at minimum be heavy on the honeymoon and light on the wedding.

(As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts on all this.  Please take one minute and comment below)

Enjoying the beach in Costa Rica!

On the Inca Trail in Peru


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