Tuesday, April 12, 2011

This post originally appeared on Any Other Woman

The husband and I recently spent a weekend staying with my parents. Unlike us, they have an all-singing all-dancing satellite TV package, so at the first opportunity I grabbed the remote and began excitedly flicking through the channels. Unfortunately, I had forgotten the First Universal Law of Television: the more channels you have, the fewer the programmes that are actually worth watching. I had worked my way through the usual channels without success and desperation was setting in as I scrolled further and further downwards, edging dangerously close to the realm of Russian news channels and obscure sporting events, when a programme title caught my eye.

I should have known better. I knew I would regret it, I could tell from the title, but I couldn't stop myself. I clicked 'View'. And suddenly I found myself watching the most horrifying, rage-inducing programme I have ever seen. No, it wasn't Louis Theroux with those vile people, or even Jordan's latest nonsense. It was Bridalplasty.

For those of you who haven't experienced this horrendousness, allow me to explain. Hosted by what I can only assume is a robot, Bridalplasty sees twelve brides compete against each other for the chance to win "The Perfect Wedding". Each week, the women participate in increasingly ridiculous and demeaning challenges with the aim of winning another dream plastic surgery procedure from their "wish list" while so-called "experts" prey on their insecurities. When the "losing" bride is eliminated each week, Robo-Host sends them on their way with the immortal line, "Your wedding will still go on. It just won't be perfect."


If I learned anything from my wedding planning experience, it was this:

1. Your wedding will not be perfect.

2. Your wedding is not a competition.

As a highly competitive perfectionist, I struggled with both of these realisations and, honestly, sometimes I still do. I can't pretend I didn't love it when guests told me ours was the best wedding they'd ever been to (aw, shucks, I bet they say that to all the brides), or spend hours admiring our amazing wedding photos, or get a thrill out of seeing our wedding featured on Rock My Wedding.

But it certainly wasn't "perfect". I had to abandon several projects in the run-up to the wedding (chronological photo collages of our entire relationship? Personal handwritten welcome notes for all 140 guests? Yeah right). I didn't get a facial, or a manicure, or a massage, or a spray tan. I was late to the church. I ripped my dress. There was a one-day-only, never-happened-before-or-since plague of greenflies on the beach, so that I ended up with little flies embedded all over my lace dress and in my veil (nice). I got stressed and started yelling at people to come and be in the formal photos. Our speeches overran by an hour and most people missed us cutting the cake. Instead of a romantic late-night stroll along the beach to our B&B after the wedding, we had a not-so-romantic trek along the pavement with Fin's stepbrother obliviously in tow. Et cetera.

Nor was it "better" than any other wedding. It was ours, and that made it special to us, but there is no Standard Scale of Wedding Perfection. There are no marks out of ten. Wedding planning is not (yet) an Olympic sport. It's so easy to look at weddings on blogs or in magazines and see how intimidatingly beautiful everything is, and become overwhelmed by the fear your wedding will simply not measure up. I will freely admit that I felt that way more than once during the planning. It was really only after the wedding was over that the cloud lifted, and I saw clearly for the first time that it is not the stationery, or the decorations, or the flowers, or the dresses, that make a wedding; it's the people, the love, the FUN, and all the other warm gooey stuff that you can't feel from a computer screen or the page of a magazine.

I want to grab hold of those Bridalplasty brides and tell them they do not need to be "perfect" to be beautiful. I want to show them that having a happy marriage has nothing to do with having a perfect wedding (just look at poor wee Cheryl Cole). I want to beg them to support and encourage their fellow brides, instead of stomping all over those brides' dreams with the heavy jackboots of their own insecurities. I want to shout that the only thing that matters, the only thing worth fighting for, is that at the end of the day you will be married to the one that you love and who loves you.

(Although, as the inimitable Bowie Bride proved, even accidentally missing out the legally-married-bit isn't *that* big a problem.)

So, for those you still navigating the stormy waters of wedding planning, here, for what they're worth, are my thoughts from the other side.

1. Forget about perfection. Our imperfections make us beautiful, and the same applies to our weddings, because ultimately they are nothing more nor less then a reflection of ourselves. Embrace the parts that matter to you and try to let the rest fall away (but don't beat yourself up for caring about the aesthetics and the details, if that's your thing - sometimes pretty things just make ushappy).

2. Try not to fixate on what people will think of your wedding, or compare yourself with other brides, or second-guess your choices. It's not a competition, but even if it were, guess what? You already win! By the end of the day, you will (hopefully) be married and get to spend the rest of your lives together. Eyes on the prize.

3. Pay close attention to this one. This is vital. If you find yourself idly clicking through the channels on a rainy afternoon and you happen to come across (*gag*) Bridalplasty, whatever you do, do not, under ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, press View. Just keep on clickin'.

Image by Lillian and Leonard

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