Choosing My Bridesmaids

Dear Thriving Bride,

It is 45 days  until I get married, and in honor of reaching my halfway mark since I started this blog (hooray!), I asked all of you reading this to let me know which topics you’d like me to write about. So, this one is about the women in your wedding or “the issue of bridesmaids.”

I didn’t have an issue when it came to figuring out my bridesmaids.

We had a plan, and it was pretty simple.  PJ and I decided to have two people stand next to each of us.  I chose my “chosen sister” and another dear woman who has witnessed my relationship in the last year as it has evolved to this point.  For me, it was about the experiences I had with each woman that made me want to have them in my wedding.  I have so many incredible women in my life, and I am lucky to be able to say that I could have asked several different people.  But, I didn’t.  I keep talking about how you want to feel on your wedding day because remembering this helps you with almost every aspect of the planning process.

I wanted more depth and less pretense.  I wanted  simplicity and elegance.  I wanted a wedding that would showcase our personalities: quirky, full of life and enduring. Most of all, I wanted two people to stand not just as bridesmaids (the term does not fully appreciate what these women mean to me), but as witnesses to our union.  Everyone at your wedding will witness it, but who do you want to stand there with you and stand there for you as well?  Who do you want to start witnessing this journey with you from the time you ask them to be in your wedding? Who do you want to call at 1am after you have been crying in bed and don’t want to wake up your partner? Who do you want to hold your hand on that day when your fiance is busy getting ready in another room and all you want is for someone to lightly touch you and tell you that things will be just fine?  Who do you want to stand for you and not just with you?

Think about it, then make a plan. For me, that meant choosing two women who I felt were a big part of my journey as I grew and changed and finally was able to say yes to the love that PJ had to offer me. I think it’s great when I see weddings adorned with 8 or more bridesmaids and groomsmen, but that would personally drive me crazy.

I only think it is pretense if someone is in your wedding because you feel guilty or insecure.  We all feel insecure sometimes, but it does not mean you have to surround yourself with a bunch of people dressed in the same color and picture ready for the photographer to say “cheese” on your wedding day.  How do you want to feel?  I did not want to feel crazy.  I wanted to have my “chosen sister” because she had known me for so many years and understood the gravity of emotions that came with my circumstances, and I chose MW because she saw me grow and evolve.  I will even admit that she saw me crawling on the floor and in tears when I thought I had missed my opportunity to build a relationship with PJ.  Yes, I was snot nosed and crumpled on the floor!   It does happen!

I also need to say that it is really important to choose people who you know are there to fully support you. Who has the capacity to be there for you?  Maybe your really good friend who is a single mom to a toddler may not be the best choice? Who says you have to pick your blood relative?  And who says you have to pick your mom’s best friend’s daughter because you played with her in the sandbox at some memorable park when you were 7? Maybe you want to choose someone you’ve known for a year and not your long time friend of 15 years.  It really is okay. You have your reasons and so does every other bride.  It is not my place to say, but yours.

If you’ve been reading this blog long enough, you know you have two very special things to help you on this journey: A Bridal Right to Choose and Agency.  If you haven’t had a chance to look them up in The Thriving Bride Glossary, please do.  Once you’ve got those in your pocket, you’ll know the next step.  I hope you are learning to trust yourself more and more everyday Dear Bride.    It is really up to you.  No one else can decide for you.  So, who do you want to stand for you on that day?

Stay tuned for Thriving Bride Tips for Rallying the Best Wedding Party!

 

Redefining Your Wedding: “Who Gives This Bride Away”

for JG

Dear Thriving Bride,

My wedding will definitely be a community affair.  I will be married in 49 days, and I am thinking a lot about community in relation to the traditions I want to have at my wedding. There are traditions that are really important to me, and one of those happens to be a tear-jerker,  and an issue that I have been trying to resolve.  You know how in many weddings (and in most movies), there’s that part where the officiator says: “And who gives this bride away.”  Well, usually her parents stand and say “we do.”

Well, my parents are not taking part in my wedding.  That may change, but I am working with what’s true in the present moment.  What is it about that moment that pulls at my heart strings?  From a young age, I either thought about skipping that part or coming up with some version of it that did not feel right to me.

And then I had a discussion with my friend JG.  JG has known me since I was 18, and I am now 34.  We talked about what I would do in this part of the wedding, and I suggested having my surrogate parents stand for me and say these words.  Then, as she usually does, she threw in something hilarious and  said: How come it’s all about who give the woman away. What about who gives the couple away or something like that.  It was pretty funny and made me think a lot.  So thanks dear friend! Here are  some of my new ideas:

1. I can ask a few close friends to stand up and say “We do.”

2. I can ask my surrogate parents (please stay tuned for the upcoming post titled The Importance of Surrogate Parents) to stand for me on that day.

3. I can take my ideas and combine them with JG’s.  Why does someone have to give me away?  Why is it that no one is supposed to stand for my fiance  as well?

When that moment comes in the wedding ceremony, I will no longer be queasy in the stomach or want to avoid it.  This time the officiator will say: “Who stands in support of this couple and this marriage.”  Thankfully, I have a community that will stand and collectively say “We Do.”  In the end, they are the ones who have stood by us all these years.

 

Thriving Bride Tips: Remember That You Have Agency

Dear Thriving Bride,

I am getting married in 50 days,  and thinking a lot about my childhood. When I was a little girl, I dreamed of finding a one way ticket as far as I could get from my family of origin.  It sucked!  Actually, it more than sucked.  It was a situation that meant most of my siblings lived in some form of foster care because our home was deemed “unsafe for children,” and it often was.  It is  days before I get married and I would like you to think about this:  Whoever you are, if you are a thriving bride you have more resources than you could ever imagine.

Who dreamed up an escape plan to Berkeley because I knew education came first for my parents and was my only way out?

I did!

Who methodically researched every college handbook as well as read (over and over again) about the qualifications it would take for me to go to school in California?

I did!

Who decided early on that my life was a life worth living, full of promise and had the possibility to impact my world and community if I could just find a space to feel safe and loved for who I was.

I did!

Who understood what I needed to do to take control of my life and take it out of the hands of my parents when I was only 13 years old?

I did!

If a 13 year old girl can figure out how she is going to live a value-centered life when she does not fully understand what it means but knows that it is a necessary part of her ability to thrive in this world, then who says this 34 year old woman can’t give herself one hell of a good time in celebration of all she has achieved.

Berkeley was a great opportunity, but my graduating valedictorian or going to a really good college was not actually the most impressive thing (for me).  The most impressive thing for me was to realize that I had agency: The ability to create the life that I wanted, take the steps to make it happen, and know that my life was valuable enough to keep off the streets, out of prisons or jails, out of living at home till my hair turned grey and definitely out of somebody’s idea of who I should be.

It was pretty much an equation that looked something like this:

my life as a child – the opportunity to remove myself from the situation x the negative cycle of behaviors that would afflict me for the rest of my life if I remained in that situation = my emotional and/or physical death

I know this might be hard to hear. But please bear with me.  I figured out another equation:

my negative experiences as a child + the opportunity to remove myself from the situation so that i could understand who i truly was and change negative behaviors x the possibility of being loved and seen for who I truly was and could become = the possibility of my emotional and physical survival and the ability to thrive

Don’t ask me how I could comprehend or understand this equation, but I loved Math and it truly fascinated me.  I thought I could apply it to my life and actually get somewhere in the process.  I won’t lie to you.  I schemed, kept my mouth shut, my eyes in my books, did everything to not be removed from my home so i would not miss any school, said what my parents wanted to hear and checked off items on my list.  Come hell or high water, I was going to create, understand and manifest an equation that equaled life.  And I did!

Ladies, Can you hear me?  I said Ladies, Can you hear me?  It’s the same equation for your wedding. You have agency and you can make it the day you want it to be and know that the same young woman who harnessed her power and made her life valuable to herself and others can do the same thing now.

It’s all one wonderful dream that I was blessed to figure this out early on.  My life is worth so much, and I am here to live it.  Don’t just plan your wedding, live it!  Live the life (and marriage) you want each and every day.  And when you get to the altar, it will be like the feeling I had when I was on the plane to Berkeley.  I chuckled to myself, looked around to make sure I was not dreaming, and relaxed into my comfortable seat knowing that I had done something that would forever change my life.

Agency is a powerful tool to have.  If you are feeling like you can’t see where your agency lies, take a walk down memory lane and see if you can remember all the times that you understood your power and used it to make your life more meaningful.  That should get you going!

Focus on the Essence, and Forget the Form

Dear Thriving Bride,

I am getting married in 51 days, and my father will not be walking me down the aisle.  The truth is, I decided that I don’t want him to. I have always imagined walking myself down the aisle. When I was 10 years old, I somehow knew I would make choices for my heart that would not please my parents.

I am not here to tell you to send all and any traditions to hell.  Some are really great, but that depends on the kind of bride you want to be.  I have never been someone who makes a very important decision based on the “moral” thing to do.  I usually choose based on the “right” thing to do.  I am sure we all have different definitions of these two thought provoking words, but the point I am trying to make is that each woman knows what is “right” for her.  Other people will have their opinions, but in the end you (and your partner) will be making the decision.

So, let me throw a non-traditional thought out there with these questions: What are you going to do if your father is not walking you down the aisle?  Actually, I am getting you ready for the questions people will ask you.  Again, there is no “right” and “wrong” way to walk down the aisle, but there are some very strongly held opinions that pervade our society for a reason.  Well, what’s your answer to the question?  Do you have an answer?  Do you care to have one?  Do you not think that people will ask?

What about this question?: What do you mean your family is not coming to your wedding?  Again, who says they have to be there in order for you to have a wonderful wedding like the millions of brides who get married every year?  No one, actually!

I am not trying to be cavalier about this.  These are questions that will come up, and even if you have made peace with the answers to these questions, you will find yourself unearthing many emotions that you thought you had already dealt with over and over again.  For me, it has been important to have a few responses.

Here’s how I dealt with some of these questions: 

What do you mean your parents aren’t coming?

Well, they are not coming.  No, it’s not because they cannot come.  It is because they are not very good at supporting me without conditions.

That’s one response.  It may or may not apply to you.

So, how come your dad’s not walking you down the aisle?

I am not very close with my Dad.  Actually, having him walk with me would be more stressful and would take away from the celebratory mood of this really wonderful day.  He is my dad by blood, but not by experience.

Basically, it was very important for me to “focus on the essence, and forget the form.”

When I realized that I did not actually want my biological father to have this role, but instead wanted the presence and support of fatherly figures who supported and loved me for who I was, then it became very clear that having my Dad walk me down the aisle would not add to the feeling of joy that I wanted to have on this day.

Don’t get me wrong here, it makes me really sad.  I listen to Father/Daughter dance songs and cry my eyes out.  It hurts! It hurts less today because I am no longer focused on feeling like the “form” has to be my actual blood relative.  The essence and how I wanted to feel became more important, which allowed me to ask for what I needed from my family of experience and actually be able to receive it.

I also feel sad that as of today, my mother will most likely not be there as well.  Again, I would love for my mother to be there because we are actually very similar in many ways.  My mother taught me a lot about what to do and what not to do in a relationship.  I am sure she feels very guilty about the ways in which she enabled my father to abuse her children.  But the choice to remain with my father and continue to enable his actions are her choices.

I will actually miss my mother’s “form” at my wedding. She emanates joy and is truly an amazing woman.  She taught me to dream and wish for anything, and I will always value that.  But again, the essence that I want to experience on this day includes support and love without conditions.  My mother is still very traditional, and both of my parents have decided that their decision to be supportive is based on the traditions of their home land more than the traditions of love.  When I thought about it, I realized that in both cases the essence was more important than the form.

Despite my upbringing (and maybe because of it), I can be very traditional.  I want a pretty normal wedding.  Yes, it will be a mix of cultures and traditions, but the essence of it will be joyful and full of love.  And for me, this matters more than the presence of a certain relative.  I am not asking you to agree with everything I say and my choices, I am just asking you to realize that you have your bridal right to choose, and that you should use it.

Do you want to feel loved and supported on your wedding day? Bring people together who help you feel that way.  Do you want to feel seen for who you are?  Maybe you should think about being honest about your circumstances and allowing others to fully see you for who you are so they can see you through your wedding day.  There will be many emotions, but this is what our lives are here to offer us: Many opportunities to let ourselves be seen and loved.  And boy does that require massive amounts of tissues!

Top 10 Tips for Low-Stress Wedding Planning

Dear Thriving Bride,

The purpose of this blog is for me to share my experiences as I plan for my wedding in a way that feels empowering for me, a bride with challenging circumstances that I want to turn into opportunities to learn, grow and hopefully help other people.  I have been engaged for a few months, and will be married in 50 days.  What I have learned so far has been powerful and trans formative for me.  Weddings can be stressful, but if  you already have difficult circumstances to deal with, you may want to keep your eye on the prize: minimizing stress and maximizing your ability to say “yes” to this journey. So far, here’s my top 10 list of tips to keep the stress low and the bride “thriving.” I’m sure I will think of more things to tell you later. Enjoy!

1.  Regardless of what is happening around you, try and remember that this time is about you and your future spouse. In the end, there is no wedding without your significant other standing there next to you.  Everything else matters and doesn’t matter as well. Remember that!

2. Do something really fun with your partner every week.  If you need to feel like you are staying busy in your planning process, sign up for a dance class (obviously to prepare you for your first dance), or throw a wine tasting into the mix after a long afternoon of looking at wedding venues.

3. If you are having a multicultural wedding, find playful ways to incorporate certain traditions into the wedding.  We sure did enjoy scouring the internet for fashionable Nigerian outfits to have specially made for PJ’s family.  We also enjoyed brainstorming about how many different flags we should have represented at the wedding.

4. Talk about your joys and your frustrations. It’s great to vent about the budget or the caterer, but it is also pretty exciting to marvel at all the great things about your wedding venue or your rehearsal dinner venue. We’re getting married at a former bordello. Now, that’s given us a lot of fun things to talk about.

6. Let the wedding planner do her job!  If you hire one, just let her do what she does best.  If you try and do her job for her, then you just wasted part of your budget (and her time).  You can help her by having a vision of what you want, and then stepping back and letting her get creative (by the way, Pinterest is a great resource for getting ideas and sending them to your wedding planner) to make your day as wonderful as you want it to be.

7. Try not to compare yourself and/or your wedding journey to another bride unless the process helps you figure out what you want as part of your day.  Did she get her dress custom made and flown in from a country you can’t even remember?  Did she have an open bar at her wedding and you can’t afford to?  Comparing yourself will only drive you crazy unless you use it as a tool to help you get creative and not crazy.

8. Have clear boundaries with your loved ones.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, everyone will have different ideas about how you should do this and that.  That’s all well and good, but you’ve got to be happy as well.  Practice saying no with a smile and sometimes a hug.  Also, it doesn’t hurt to have a nice bottle of wine around to share with this person while you are saying “no.”

8. Create a wedding budget!  Money is a big reason married couples fight and eventually break up, and it is also a reason some couples never make it to the altar.  Decide what is realistic and what will allow you to celebrate with friends and family without being resentful that your bank account is missing a few zeros.

9. Use your community as a resource.  Everyone involved is a part of your life because they truly have the capacity to love you as you are.  It’s true!  So, don’t be shy to say “no” when you need to and ask for help when you need to as well.  Maybe the rehearsal dinner can happen in your mother’s home instead of that restaurant that doesn’t fit into your budget.

10. Make your plans, and then let them go.  It is always good to have a plan, but on the day of your wedding things will happen as they are supposed to.  You can’t control that!

 

 

 

 

Don’t Forget to Enjoy the Process of Planning Your Wedding!

Don’t forget to play! Me and my fiance playing footsies.

Dear Thriving Bride,

When we first got engaged, PJ’s high school buddy and best man told us to enjoy the process of getting ready for our big day.  He said the wedding day would come and go, and to pay attention to everything involved in planning for this day.  He was right!  It is a truly wonderful experience because you get to discover and rediscover your fiance every day.

I am getting married in 55 days and until today I had no idea PJ would be interested in taking formal dance lessons for our first dance.  Well, he does.  He even suggested the Tango, and we might have to reserve that very sexy dance for a very private moment.  I remember the day we sent out our SAVE THE DATE email.  We both chuckled as we counted to three and clicked the computer’s mouse in unison.  There was excitement and there was this vast adventure of the unknown that we were about to embark upon.

So, while you’re picking your flowers and trying to squeeze one last line item into your budget, remember to laugh and have fun!  This day is very important, and it truly will be amazing regardless of if you serve one type of meat or three.  But, it won’t be that incredible if you and your fiance are barely speaking to each other as you stand there ready to commit to spending the rest of your lives together.  Get the point?

Don’t forget to play.  Don’t forget to laugh.  Don’t forget to go on dates, even when you are trying to keep your head above water.  Know what to hang onto for dear life (some things must be what they must be on this day) and what to let go of.  Be true to you, but also to the both of you.

Warning to Brides: Unless you are planning on marrying yourself, you need to consider your fiances feelings and desires when planning y (our) wedding.  It really is not about you, but about both of you.

Stay tuned for my top 10 tips for making your  wedding planning process more fun and less stressful!

 

 

Redefining Your Wedding

for JJ

Dear Thriving Bride,

In 59 days, my fiance and I will be getting married at a former bordello. Well, that’s where the reception we be after the ceremony at the local library.  PJ and I love the idea! Although the venue is now a beautiful Bed and Breakfast, there were initially some raised eyebrows amongst my family of origin.  The most important part of this decision is that it was our decision, and for us that’s what really matters.

Let me first say that everyone involved in helping you plan your wedding will mean well.  They really will!  Your mother might suggest you pick a different venue than your gut suggests and your mother in law might just second that opinion.  In all honesty, all the time leading up to the wedding feels like one big sports tournament and every one is cheering you on, telling you which plays to make and which ones to avoid, while at the same time gritting their teeth knowing that they can only suggest and let you make your choices.

This is part of redefining your wedding.

You might ask: Why do I have to redefine it?  Well, that’s because there are many stages between the time you say “I will” to the time you say “I do.”  There really are!  When we first got engaged, we were very excited to have PJ’s mom plan the wedding and so was she.  She had done such a wonderful job with his sister’s wedding many years earlier, and her background as an interior decorator had allowed me to see and love her taste.

Then things changed.  PJ realized that he was more invested than he originally thought.  We sent out our SAVE THE DATE email and he checked to see who had responded any time he could steal a few minutes away from his work.  His mother was still willing to be generous with her time and help us plan, but then we stumbled upon a really amazing wedding venue that came with a wedding planner.

And then that venue changed because we found a place that felt more in line with our values and what we wanted to say  to our friends and family,  and the experience we wanted to share with them.  So, what’s the point of all these stories? THE WEDDING PLANNING PROCESS HAS STAGES!

My advice to you is this: Do your best to be okay with things as they change, because they surely will. You have this wonderful partner and a day to share with loved ones who will hopefully be there and continue to cheer you on throughout this life, so don’t forget to honor their willingness to support you while respecting what you want and don’t want as part of your special day.

This is not the time to be mean in the name of celebrating your special day.  It is a time to sit down with each person who has helped you along the way and thank them for all that they have done and are willing to do on your behalf.

Here are a few strategies for easing through the many stages of the wedding planning process:

1. After you have gotten engaged, sit down with those people who you consider family and let them know that this is an important moment that you want all of them to share with you and your partner.

2. Let people know that while you have ideas about what this day looks like in your mind, you acknowledge that your vision may change.  Ask for their patience!

3. If someone volunteers to do something for you (make invitations, do decorations, etc), thank them and let them know that you will respond to them as soon as you have a clearer idea of how you want them to participate.

4.  Let everyone know that while you respect and love them, you want your wedding to be “self created, but community sustained.”  Basically, you want to figure out the essence of this special day with your fiance, but you will need the love and support of all those people you  call loved ones to help you get there.

5. Honor your mother, your father and your self.  I grew up in a very Christian family and these words were constantly filling our ears as kids.  I think it is important to do this, but most of all to honor and respect your wishes.  Don’t try to please everyone if you are feeling miserable about this decision.  Remember that while you are your parents child, you are no longer a child and hopefully this reality check will allow you to use your voice and speak up when things don’t feel right in the planning process.  More to come on this one in an upcoming post!

5.  If you hurt someone’s feelings, apologize! Saying sorry will take you a long way!

So, you will be announcing, defining and redefining your plans for this wonderful day.  In the end, the process will be as important (and wonderful) as the day itself.  Don’t forget that!  Be open to what you learn about yourself, your loved ones and your partner.   Everything will work out just fine.  We both know it will!

 

The “Bridal Center of Perspective”

Dear Thriving Bride,

It is  60 days until my wedding, and all I can think of the fact that I am getting married to the man I love in two months.  AHHHHHHHHHHH!  I am so excited! So much has happened (and  caused some pretty stressful moments in the last few months),  but my  partner and I have chosen to handle these things in a positive way as they have come up.  First of all, many things have changed since I last posted.  We have let go of our old wedding venue, and secured a new one.  Thankfully, we’ve been able to handle the emotions associated with the  last minute changes that may usually freak many brides out, especially when it comes to a key element for your event: the wedding venue.  But, it has taken a lot of willingness and effort on our part.  For me, it’s really helped me to gain some perspective in this whole process.

So, there’s not much to say about the change except that the essence of what we wanted to experience and what we found ourselves experiencing with our other place did not match up.  Note to brides: Just like you would in any relationship, when any component of your wedding has a lot of red flags (your planner not planning as you’d like, lack of communication from your venue, etc), it may be time to kindly excuse yourself and go looking for people  who can help you make your wedding day vision happen as you’d like it to happen.  It’s simple, so don’t even bother feeling guilty, and keep walking.

The stress of a destination wedding, the venue, confirming our guests, completing all the projects we were working on for our own business, dealing with the ups and downs of client management and all the emotions I have shared with you concerning my biological family came to a head this week and one day my dear man and I just had a heated argument.  So far, we’d been doing pretty well (and still did all things considered on this day) but the effects of everything that was happening, not happening and about to happen was very clear.  Just when I thought it was going to be so difficult to bear, I ran into a woman that I see and talk with every now and then.

There is something about her that is always full of the truth: the way she carries herself, the fact that when she asks “how are you” she really means it, and the depth of experience of life that she is able to bring to every interaction we have.  Just a day or so after this difficult conversation with PJ, I ran into this woman and she asked me how I was doing.  I started to talk about the wedding, my family, the emotional challenges, the joys and how when I was younger I was so afraid of being married off to a man I did not know due to the tradition of arranged marriages in the Nigerian culture I grew up with.  At that moment, it hit me that I had figured out how to manage my stress.  I did not have the words to describe it yet, but I just kept talking.  I told her about how marrying PJ was my “dream” wedding because I had achieved what had seemed like an almost impossible thing by moving outside of cultural expectations and deciding who I wanted to spend my life with.  That was it!  I had found my “center of perspective.”

So, what is your ” Bridal Center of Perspective?”

What is that moment in your life that helps you understand the bigger picture, and allows you to let go of the things that do not matter so much in order for you to enjoy this time leading up to such an important day in your life.  Is it the death of a loved one? Is it the fact that you survived a challenging illness?  Did you “narrowly” escape an unhealthy relationship right before you met the man you are marrying.  Whatever it is, find that place, name it, hold it and keep it like a favorite jewel and say it to yourself over and over again until it becomes your mantra.

So, once I realized that I was already experiencing my dream wedding I could let everything else go.  This does not mean that the other details do not matter, it just means that the other details should not overshadow your “center of perspective.”  Try it!  I think it just might help you.

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue

Dear Thriving Bride,

It is 64 days before my wedding and I am thinking about what I will wear on that day to go with my lovely gown. We all know how it goes: something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.  It is a true and tried tradition and a pretty good one in my opinion. I love the idea of adorning myself with special items from the women I respect and love.  It is a way to carry history forward and to remember the past. But, for you “different kind of bride”, the past might be a very difficult place to go now that you are about to embark on such a happy day. When I think about the past, I think about the things that I will miss most on my wedding day: My younger brother’s beautiful smile and how his death will always make me remember to live this life fully, my parents inability to take care of their children during childhood and into adulthood, my family traditions from our small Nigerian village that don’t include dresses, veils, rings or jewelry of any kind ever being passed down,  and how I wonder what I will do for these 4 bridal traditions. So, here are my rules for dealing with them:

Rule #1: Decide if this tradition is important to you!

Just because your parents may be absent, dead, dismissive or just do not have these items in their family history does not mean you cannot start the tradition in yours. Yes, you are having a “different kind of wedding”, but different does not have to mean non-traditional. For most modern brides, it takes mixing  traditions (letting go of some and embracing others) to decide what it is you want. If it isn’t important to you, then let it go. And if your friends are in shock that you didn’t do it, giving them a fine Mexican tequila will usually calm them down.

Rule #2: If it is important, do it!

And doing it has nothing to do with your family of origin. The tradition does not say something old from your grandma and something blue from your aunt. Actually, in my opinion, it’s pretty modern that this wedding day tradition does not say this. So, the important thing is to get creative and I’m here to help you!

Rule #3: Get Creative!

Anything essential to you should be part of your wedding. After all, you are stripping down what is unimportant and putting up (and out there) those things that make your heart sing. And especially for my brides who might be going through an additional roller coaster of emotions due to the absence of blood relatives in some way, creativity has got to be your mojo.

Rule #4: Don’t forget to look and see what’s around you!

I will tell you a lovely story about a women I know who sells produce in our local market.

I have known her since I first came to this town, and she was really my first female older friend. She also really cared about me even though she did not know me well, and we developed a friendship that is very important to me today. She is not my biological female relative, but she loves me with her actions and that is most important. I decided recently that I want to have items from the women I love on my body on the day of the wedding. These are items for me to borrow and to use for this tradition, but it is also a way for me to wrap myself in the presence of generations of women who come from varying ethnic, age and geographical backgrounds.

Yesterday I went to the local market to buy a few things,  and I sat down to tell her how the wedding planning was coming along. Then I realized that I was not being honest. I was not telling her what was really affecting me lately. So, I just started talking. I told her about the many years I endured with an abusive father and an enabling mother and abusive siblings. I told her about how the past would never really be the past until my parents stopped the cycle of abuse that continues today.  I told her all of this, and then I let her know that I wanted these 4 items to come from women I loved dearly.

What happened next is both exhilarating and breathtaking. It is hard to describe the emotions, but I will do my best.

She looked at me, lifted a gold ring with diamonds and ruby stones off of her hand and said, “take this and wear it for your wedding.” I explained that I would return it, and she said it was a gift from her children and she wanted to now gift it to me.

I need to take one deep breath here. This was a moment of grace: those times in life when despite your desire to keep going forward without taking notice, you are forced to notice and to give thanks. So, I have my something old if I want to use that ring. She is the woman at the market who I call a friend and she has no blood relation to me.

Sometimes, generosity of spirit is more enduring than blood ties. You might be feeling shy, but reach out and don’t be surprised at the generosity that abounds!

Rule #5: Be able to receive!

After my background of abuse and feeling like I could not trust the people I thought I should be able to trust the most, I spent many years being unable to receive gifts of any and every kind. I felt a little suspect, and wondered what the person wanted from me. Well, several years later I am pretty good at receiving but I still have a few bumps in the road every now and then. Once your realize how much people want to support you at this time, do your best to accept that support and to cherish and honor it. If you are finding it difficult to do, here are some tips:

  1. Whatever is being given to you is there to show you that you can trust the love that is showing up in your life.
  2. You did not have that trust with your blood family, so you get to have it now. And what better time than when you are about to get married!
  3. You don’t have to say yes to everything, but just know the difference between when you are denying your need for this show of support and when you truly would prefer not to have a specific thing from a specific person.
  4. You got to that place where you were able to receive your partner’s love, so this is the easy part–Right?

So, who says you can’t have your something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue?  You can have every and anything you want to have.  You just may have to ask for it, then sit back and see how much love and support comes pouring in.

“It’s their loss, not yours”

Dear Thriving Bride,

Of course it is easy to tell yourself this when it comes to your unavailable or incapable family of origin.   Last night, as PJ was standing in the kitchen fixing dinner, I remembered something we had talked about and wanted to address.  We’ve both been pretty lucky to have his mom both in the same town as us and super supportive as well.  Here’s to kick-ass mother-in-laws!

I have 68 more days until I say “I do.” Anyway, a few weeks ago we were having a conversation about my parents and had pretty much accepted that they were not going to attend the wedding without several conditions.  We spoke of PJ’s mom and how great it was to have her here, and he was honest and told me about how he would miss not having that “in law” support on my side.

It has been a few weeks since that conversation, but it still sticks with  me.  It made me really sad for myself and for him.  I did not feel sorry for myself, and there is a difference.  You see, I did not want my very own parents to be there for both of us in an unhealthy way, which has been the case so far.  I was not wishing for something I knew that I did not have.  Instead, I was lamenting the array of possibilities that could come out of the joining of our families in a truly supportive way.  That made me sad for me, and for Peter.

Yesterday as he was cooking I remembered that moment and I walked up to him and hugged him.  I told him I was sorry he would not have that presence for now, and I also told him how glad I was that my older sister was super supportive and would be there for the both of us.  Peter looked down at me and said “it’s their loss.”

The truth is, I have gone through so many emotions in the last few months, but this was a moment of inner joy.  It was a moment to revel in all that is true and wonderful and to let go of the rest.  I am marrying a truly wonderful man and my parents can choose to seize the opportunity to get to know him or not.  It is their choice, and their loss as well.

So, everyone has reasons for not showing up in your life at the moments that matter most.  There is a well known saying about abuse that goes something like this: “there are always reasons, but never excuses.”  Nothing can ever excuse the behavior no matter what reason your blood relatives give.  But, they do have their reasons and usually there will always be one reason or another.  So much is happening for you right now and is about to happen as you move closer to your wedding day.  Let them be who they are, grieve for the moments lost and allow yourself to feel sad.  And then, when you are clear about what a missed opportunity their choice is, find your dear fiance, hold him close and be grateful that you did not miss the opportunity to marry him.

 

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