Sunday, February 15, 2009

A More Perfect Union

A few weeks ago after two stir-crazy days in the apartment over a long weekend, I hopped in my car and drove the five minute stretch to one of my favorite spots: the bookstore. When you've got time to kill (and a gift card to spend), there is nothing more satisfying than losing yourself amongst the stacks and shelves of book titles. I prefer the non-fiction genre-- travel writing, memoirs, social commentaries-- over the latest fiction release.

Aside: Will someone please explain this Twilight disease? I'm always weary of items in our culture that generate soldout midnight movie showings or overnight Facebook bumper stickers and pieces of flair. I'll admit I haven't seen the movie or read any of the books (and I hear there's several books; calm down, Harry Potter), but the media has pumped up this vampire frenzy of a novel so much that now I'm almost certain I will hate it. My aunt found out that I, "Shelly, the English Major," hadn't yet read the book, and she proceeded to buy it for me, because, clearly, I have nothing better to do between working my full time job, playing on two volleyball teams, a soccer team, a softball team, and planning a wedding than to read a romance novel about vampires. She handed it to me in a plastic Barnes and Nobles bag in a way that said, "I expected better from you."

The first Twilight book is now sitting on my desk; I fear that if I open it, I will be sucked into a world of fiction-escapism and I may never come back. If I open it, I just might like it, and I can't like it, because I have already convinced myself that I won't like it.

My hesitance to jump on the Twilight bandwagon is similar to how Hanna Schank views wedding planning in a wonderful book titled A More Perfect Union: How I Survived the Happiest Day of My Life, which was one of the books I picked up on my trip to the bookstore. Schank kicks off her engagement with the determination to have a small, low-key wedding. She will not obsess. She will be laid-back, and her bridesmaids and family members will call her a "cool, laid back, bride." She starts off as a cynical bride-to-be: she offers interesting wedding industry history, critiques why otherwise profesionally sound women morph into obsessive compulsive 'bridezillas', and she provides an overall social commentary of a 72-billion dollar industry.

On creating a wedding registry, Schank writes, "The problem was that I wasn't entirely sure what was wrong. She had, after all, a much clearer vision of who I should be than I did myself. I should care about juice glasses. I should know what a table runner is. I should want a nice set of china. I should be setting up a home for her son, never mind that we contribute equally to the household fiancially, that between the two of us, Steven is the one who is most looking forward to having and raising children, that no one I know has a clue what a chafing dish is or why you would need one. Never mind any of that, because, regardless, I am still going to be a wife, and this is what a wife does... It is possible that marriages and families and children all depend on having the right juice glasses. It is possible that I'm an inadequate bride who doesn't know how to register, and that as a result I'm going to be a rotten homemaker and a miserable wife and mother, and my marriage will end in divorce and scandal."

Schank tries to avoid meaningless wedding traditions and paying thousands of dollars to a industry that thrives on pushing the notion of perfection, but even she can't seem to resist: "But this is the problem: once you embrace the idea of perfection, it holds you in its grasp and refuses to let go; and even though I was not using the word 'perfect' I had the sense that I wanted things to be 'right,' which is more or less the same thing--and by that, I meant that I wanted things to be right. I wanted menus and I wanted them to look nice. I wanted little floral arrangements in the bathrooms that told my guests I had tried extra hard to make things nice for them. I wanted what I wanted. End of story.

And the end result was that, as much as I tried to fight it, as much as I tried to shut the wedding out of all the little crevices of my life, it crept in anyway, like grout. Because once you're thinking about all the million little things that you want to be right, you can't stop. It's rediculous, really. Here you are making this huge life decision to spend the rest of your life with someone, and instead of thinking about love and marriage, you are tormented by retailers demanding that you have perfect tuxedos, that your skin be not just clear but radiant, that your cocktails match your lifestick. And the truth was, no matter how revolting I had found the industry's demands, that I had become obsessed with my wedding."

I enjoyed the author's wry tone and her use of wedding industry facts to explain why weddings are the way they are. But mostly, I enjoyed her social commentary, because it is almost identical to my own current experience. It kills me to charge my credit card for a dress I will wear once, for a grand total of probably no more than 6 hours. (It's a beautiful dress, though, and "so Shelly," according to some of my bridesmaids.) I feel like I'm betraying my inner tomboy when I purchase wedding decor that could be described as, dare I say it, girly. ("Oh, but it will bring more color into the room," says my mother). I've even started contemplating the color coordination of table cloths (table cloths!), napkins (napkins!), and floral arrangements. What the hell is wrong with me? I've fallen into Wedding Land and I can't get out.

But don't throw me a rope just yet, because I'm not sure I'm ready to come back...

Schank's closing advice to brides-to-be is this: "Know that there is no such thing as the girliest girly-girl... Know that no matter what you do there will be people who think your wedding is too traditional or too wacky or just not their thing. And know that, if all goes well, you will never have to plan another wedding. So savor it. Revel in your dip into uber-femininity... Learn about all the flowers that are indigenous to your region and force all your bridesmaids to go out into a meadow and pick their own bouquets because you want a 'hand-plucked' look. Get as girly as you want to be. Because after your wedding, you will tuck your dress away in a corner and you probably won't look back. You will go back to being the woman you used to be before this whole silly wedding thing happened. So breathe deeply. And enjoy."

Shank may have lost a few points with me when she used the word "uber," but I get her message. I'm still planning to use faux flowers and make my own bouquets, but it doesn't hurt to research the real deal. And I know there will be people who have an opinion on various aspects of our wedding, and some of those people have already, not-so-tactfully, divulged those opinions. With Jolyon's help, my thicker skin is growing, and I'm trying to learn to just let things go. (Just because someone referred to our chosen wedding location as "nothing more than a Holiday Inn," doesn't mean I should jump all over said person.) In the end, it will be our wedding-- an expression of who we are as a couple, with the exception that, in the end, it will probably end up being the most money I've spent on anything in my entire life.

In the meantime, I may crack open Twilight.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Shellyon Wedding

It's official! I'm getting married!

Of course, I knew that back in September when Jolyon proposed. But now, I'm officially getting married. Or, at least now it feels official. When experienced wedding-goers ask me, "So, when's the wedding?" I no longer shuffle my feet and blush, muttering, "Uh, this fall...sometime... you know. We're still, uh, looking" as they chuckle and walk away, clearly disappointed at my lack of planning.

(Screw you, Wedding Industry. Who are you to tell me how long my engagement should be? Stop cramming magazines and bridal shows down my throat. Who are you to dictate what my "perfect day" entails, anyway? Who are you to tell me that spending $1,000 on a dress I'll wear once is justifiable? And, PS- I'm capable of doing my own makeup, thankyouverymuch.)

I'm glad we took our time to research venues, rather than rush into something that just wasn't "us." And I'm proud of myself for not giving into the various subtle guilt trips that floated in and out of my email inbox and facebook page:

Don't make us travel too far, now. You know we're all located in this one area. Oh, but ultimately the choice is yours. But just remember...


We're getting married on October 17, 2009 on Captiva Island, west of Fort Myers, FL.

In a previous post, I had mentioned Tween Waters Inn as a potential wedding location. I take back all the slightly mean things I wrote about their sales manager. (Apparently her true personality does not translate well through email. I should know this; much of my job requires heavy email communication, and after awhile, you just need to get to the point and aren't overly concerned about your tone.)

Upon arrival at Tween Waters Inn two weeks ago, Jolyon and I were greeted by a friendly woman, who enthusiastically drove us around the resort via golf cart. She showed us the various reception venues, answering our questions without an agenda, and she even gave us a tour of some of the onsite guest rooms. She was open and honest with us, which was a pleasant surprise, especially after some of the reviews I had read. She wasn't pushy; she truly just wanted to inform us of everything they had to offer. And she genuinely wanted to help us: "I want to see you guys get married," she said with a laugh. "I don't want to rip you off."

Almost immediately after arriving at the resort, I knew this was the place for us. Its casual ambiance was prevalent: small, rustic cottages were nestled in the palm trees, the registration building consisted of a single room, complete with faded couches, and the Gulf of Mexico was directly in front of the resort, with only a small road dividing the inn from the sand.
When the sales manager showed us the reception room that would be suitable for our wedding size, I melted. The room, accessible by stairs or elevator, overlooked the gulf, courtesy of several french doors. I walked out onto the balcony and looked out onto the beach, and my heart did a bit of hopskotch: there was a volleyball net on the beach. A wonderful, permanent, privately-owned volleyball net for Tween Waters Inn guest use only. I was sold.
Jolyon and I celebrated the selection of our wedding venue at the resort's pool bar, where the sales manager treated us to lunch (grilled cheese and nachos, yum!), and the friendly staff congratulated us and insisted on taking our picture.
We wandered around the small "downtown" area of Captiva Island, immersing ourselves in what felt like a tiny piece of the Caribbean: unique art shops, colorful buildings, and sand in the streets. We passed a woman who had set up shop on the side of the road, art canvas and all, to paint a portrait of the unique architecture on one of the side streets. I fell in love with Captiva Island and I want to learn more about its few year-round residents.
After we returned to Orlando, news spread quickly that we had officially set a date and booked a venue. Naturally, my planner instinct kicked in (as well as a "39 emails?! Oh this can't happen" reaction), and we completed our wedding website, which is full of useful information for our guests. It's a way for me to stay organized, a medium to excite our guests about our untraditional, destination wedding, and also a way to simply avoid a few nagging phone calls: "So, where are you getting married? What time is the cermony? Where should we stay?") Provided we have the correct email address for our family and friends, we shouldn't hear the excuse, "Well, had I known about it in advance..." or "Oh, I didn't know it was a beach wedding..."
Even though we've officially booked our wedding, I'm still glad that we've given ourselves enough time to simply enjoy being engaged... to talk about our futures, to spend time participating in our mutual hobbies, and to find new ways to love each other and those around us. After all, the wedding is just one day (or a short weekend, in our case). It's the days after the wedding--the marriage itself-- that truly matter.

I look at our engagement as not only the period of time in which we're promising our lives to each other, but we're working together to plan what will hopefully be the most memorable day of our lives. It's the first of many projects we'll undertake as a team: it's Jolyon and Shelly vs. The World. Watch out!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Sleepy Blog

I had hoped to set aside some time tonight to write about the past several weeks. And I still plan to do just that. However, my sleepy-eyed self won't be able to give this post the attention it deserves tonight...
But it's coming. I promise. And this one will be worth waiting for...